There is an interesting episode in the gospel where Christ mentioned the great power of prayer and fasting. It is recorded both in the gospels of St. Matthew (17, 14-21) and St. Mark (9, 17-21). It is about a man who begged Christ to cast out a demon possessing his son. He had previously asked Christ’s disciples to do it but they failed.
When Christ finally drove the demon out of the boy, the disciples asked Christ, “Why could we not cast him out?” And so Christ said, “Because of your unbelief. For verily I say unto you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, ‘Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove. And nothing shall be impossible unto you. This kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.’”
Here we are given a clear indication of how our faith can be made strong and powerful. It is through prayer and fasting. It is something that we have to learn to do as well, especially when we are faced with a big problem or a strong temptation.
Prayer is our duty to maintain our relationship with God and to share in whatever he has. Fasting is like a prayer of our body that also needs to be in vital relation with God. It purifies the body of the effects of our sins and strengthens it to enter into a loving relation with God. Both comply with what Christ said about what we need to do to follow him, that is, we need to deny ourselves and carry the cross. (cfr. Mt 16, 24)
We have to make sure that our prayer is real prayer, that is, a real conversation with God. We have to see to it that we are truly making contact with him, which actually should be no problem since God is always around and treats us with love.
We have to be wary of our tendency to just go through the motions of praying. We can now easily affect the appearance of praying without actually praying. This is a problem that we have to acknowledge and proceed to find solutions.
We have to check on our attitudes and dispositions. Are we really exercising our faith? Is our piety fervent? Or are we, on the contrary, bogged down by laziness, complacency, doubts, and all the forms of pretension and hypocrisy? Prayer will always require effort and sacrifice and demands consistency and unity of life.
This is where some fasting is involved. That’s because our body needs to be disciplined, because with our earthly condition that is wounded by sin, it usually finds its pleasure in earthly things rather than in God. And fasting is one such effective form of self-denial and carrying the cross of Christ.
With fasting we align our body according to the dynamics of God’s love that will always be motivated by the salvation of mankind and will involve sacrifice. We don’t fast simply because of some health reasons, be it physical health or mental or emotional. Our fasting should be motivated by love.
And fasting nowadays may involve more than food. It can involve the use of our modern gadgets and technologies that if resorted indiscriminately can truly spoil and enslave us.
We really need to practice restraint and moderation in the use of these new things so that we would not compromise our spiritual and supernatural bearing. We need to purify our intentions and set clear limits when using them. In fact, we have to come out with a concrete plan to translate this ideal into reality.
We would see that if we truly pray and fast, as Christ indicated, nothing would be impossible to us. We would be truly united to his will and ways. And demons would have no chances of success with us./WDJ