We are always engaged in an intense spiritual battle. Sometimes we feel the intensity of the battle, sometimes we don’t. But it’s always happening.
This is why we need to make prayer an ongoing discipline. If we do, we will be much more likely to turn to prayer when we feel the intense moments, and our faith in those intense moments will be strengthened and ready to respond.
Every day we are either preparing or repairing. Prayer is either helping us prepare for the challenges we will be facing, or it’s helping us recover from the battle we just fought. Believe me: it’s much better to be preparing than it is to be repairing!
One time the disciples of Jesus got stymied in a spiritual battle. A father brought his demon-possessed son to them, asking that they cast out the demon. But this distraught father then had to report to Jesus, “They couldn’t do it” (see Matthew 17:14-21).
Why couldn’t they? These men had been taught how to pray by Jesus Himself, and they already had experienced ministry success (Matthew 6:9-13; Mark 6:13). So were they stumped now?
Jesus told them, “It’s because you have so little faith.” He went on to tell them that these intense spiritual battles require an ongoing lifestyle of prayer. Jesus wasn’t suggesting that they should have said to that father, “Come back in a few days after we have prayed and fasted.”
But what Jesus was really saying was that all of us need to stay connected to the Source of our spiritual power at every single moment (John 15:5, 7). Sometimes this requires taking our eyes off ourselves and our own appetites.
In a word: we need to fast.
The word fasting means “to cover the mouth” or “to close the mouth.”
- often fasting is in response to calamity or as a sign of mourning
- sometimes it’s alongside an intense prayer
- ideally it should be a regular discipline in our lives. In Matthew 6:16-18, notice the phrase “when you fast.” Not “if you fast,” but when. Jesus assumed that we would do this, and since this teaching appears right after Jesus teaches us how to pray, it makes sense that prayer and fasting go well together.
Fasting is not…
- to impress other people
- to try to manipulate God
- always all food
- necessarily food at all (see Matthew 6:16; Zechariah 7:4-5; Daniel 10:3; Job 40:3-5).
Fasting intensifies our focus on God in the quiet times so that we can keep our eyes on Him in the crashing storms.
Fasting helps us tune in to the unmistakable Voice of the Holy Spirit in the peaceful moments so that we can still recognize His Voice in the tumult of battle.
Is there a comfort food you tend to run to? Is there a coping activity that you typically use to de-stress? Is there someone or something other than God that is your go-to in times of trouble? Perhaps we should start there and fast from those things for a short period of time.
Fasting in the quiet times will strengthen us for the intense battle times.
Let’s prepare daily for victory, instead of having to repair after a failure.