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The Power of Prayer and Fasting

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The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mt. Tabor is described in the first few verses of the 17th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The Transfiguration is a Theophany - a manifestation of God, especially of the divinity of Christ, through the display of His uncreated, divine energy. Our Lord was enshrouded by this divine uncreated light as He communed with Moses and Elijah. God the Father's voice is heard. "While He was still speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!' Matt. 17:5

This Theophany, witnessed by His disciples Peter, James and John brought them into a state of ecstasy and spiritual euphoria. It was what some would call the "mountain top experience". They didn't want it to stop. That didn't want to come down from that mountain top and face the realities of life's valleys.

When Jesus and the three disciples came down from that mountain, they encountered a continuation of unmet human needs, they found the other 9 members of His team arguing with one another about the impotence of their spiritual abilities to heal a boy afflicted with epilepsy. "And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, "Lord have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to your disciples but they could not cure him! Matt. 17:14-15

There was a need that Jesus' disciples could not meet- it was beyond their resources (human or spiritual). There was an unmet need that was too great for them. But Jesus Christ, our Lord is the MASTER OF THE UNMET NEED. In a moment of time, Jesus turns the situation around. What seemed impossible has been accomplished! When all resources were expended - Jesus reaches out His miracle hand and divine power flows. The now humbled disciples look to Jesus with a puzzled look in their eyes. "Why could we not heal him?" "Why could we not cast out that demon of epilepsy?" "Jesus looks at them and says sternly: "This kind of demonic problem does not go out except by prayer and fasting." Godly disciplined prayer, with fasting releases breakthrough power.

So many of us are like the disciples in the valley. We are spiritually impotent. We feel dry and empty in our spiritual vitality and power. We long for relevance and meaning. Our own "demons", (fear, insecurity, low self-worth, and so much more) possesses us. We get desperate and cynical and say "there is no God" or "where is God?" because we have so many serious unmet needs and there is no heavenly response to our deep longing. Jesus gives us the simple answer; pray and fast.

There is renewed power through prayer and fasting, because we are reminded that ultimately we are dependent on God. Prayer and fasting humbles us. This self-denial of our exaggerated physical appetite, for a period of time, allows us to wait in faith and to trust God's mercy. Prayer and fasting is a sign of our desire and hunger to seek God. And in seeking Him, we place less importance in our daily routines of finding food and momentary physical pleasures. Through prayer and fasting, we develop a passion for God that supercedes everything else. When this happens, spiritual power and energy begins to flow into us, allowing us to live above our circumstances and low self expectations.

The Fathers of the church teach that the external fast is necessary from time to time for spiritual renewal. But the internal fast is necessary at all times.

Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna(+450) said: "There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door; fasting obtains; mercy receives. Prayer, fasting and mercy- These three are one and they give life to each other."

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