by Diane Strack

Prayer is not optional for any of us; rather it is the necessary spiritual air we breathe for life and health.  Fasting, however, is less discussed because it seems strange in such a decadent world of plenty.  This simple act of surrender in spirit and body to the One Who knows our thoughts today and challenges tomorrow is mighty in its results.  For me personally, fasting is a bit selfish.  I say this because in every moment that I am hungry or tempted to indulge, I am reminded of the Savior, and why I began the fast in the first place.  Worry and anxiety, and even those priorities I thought were so important to the day, begin to diminish in their power over me.  My mind free floats to Who He is; His sovereignty, unconditional love, rivers of grace, and power to do exceedingly, abundantly above all I ask or think. (Eph 3:20)  In the place of a meal or a sweet or media time, I am intensely drawn to connect intimately with the Lord Jesus, and this brings a sweet peace that must be experienced in order to understand.

Jesus spoke to the disciples of prayer and fasting when they sought answers to personal and public failure.  In Mark 9, the disciples were in the midst of a spiritual high, a time of great excitement.  Huge crowds followed Jesus, and all stood in awe as He performed miracles.  Perhaps there was also a bolstered sense of power in the disciples, one they surely needed after leaving behind family and career to follow Him.

As Jesus made His way down from the Mount of Transfiguration into the crowd, an impassioned plea came from a father whose son was besieged by demons.  The disciples could not heal the boy, but Jesus gave him hope with the simple words,“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mk 9:23)

Later in private, the disciples wanted to know, “Why could we not cast it (the demon) out?”   I can hear the rambling complaints – “We believe! We have given up everything!  Why weren’t we granted the power?”  Whether they were embarrassed or sincerely wanted to do more, we don’t know.  Jesus answered with another of his one-sentence, powerful explanations: “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)

This kind speaks to us of personal challenges, perhaps even opportunities; this kind of trial that is beyond our comfort zone and our own abilities.  Few of us are readyfor this kind; and Jesus tells us that the key is prayer and fasting.

 The great theologian Charles Spurgeon said, “It is very often our failures that bring us to a complete dependence upon God.”  Perhaps that is what Jesus allowed His disciples to experience on that day.  In the midst of such excitement and the supernatural, He brought them back to simple faith.

As we move into the New Year, be honest in your quiet space about thenumber one stronghold that’s hindering your walk with Christ.  (By the way, you already know what that is!  Let’s deal with it in 2020 once and for all.)  Resolve through prayer and fasting that this burden will no longer own you.  Only then can you move forward into the freedom of the spirit that is available through intimacy with so great a Savior.