The power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. One of the first things we consider when planning a trip is where we are going — our destination. Great Lent is a very special trip. It is a holy pilgrimage which, if understood and planned properly, can lead us to the very mystery of God’s mighty act of sacrificial love and glory.
Great Lent takes us to Calvary where the Lord Jesus redeemed us from the bondage of sin, death, and Satan himself. But our destination is the lord’s glorious Resurrection by which everlasting life in God’s Kingdom has been assured to those who in faith and love follow Him. The significance of this spiritual pilgrimage is that it affords us the opportunity to renew experientially both the death and the newness of life that the Lord’s saving act makes real for our lives in Baptism. People who take trips to distant places usually do so because they can afford it. The People of God who participate in Great Lent do so because they know that they cannot afford not to.
There are three indispensable means of participating in Great Lent. They are fasting, prayer and Spiritual vigilance which is an attitude of alertness and eager expectation both for the coming of the Lord and the averting of worldly distractions which would divert our attention from Him.
When Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness in preparation for His saving ministry, we are told that the devil tempted Him to change stones into loaves of bread. The Lord rebuked the tempter with the words, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:14; Deuteronomy 8:3).
In this way Jesus succeeded where Adam had failed (Genesis 3:16). His answer to Satan is a trenchant affirmation that to live our lives as though God did not exist, that is, “by bread alone,” is to live according to a demonic lie.
Fasting is an essential element of the Christian Life. Christ fasted and taught men to fast. Blessed fasting is done in secret. It has as its goal the purification of our lives, the liberation of our souls and bodies from sin, the strengthening of our human powers of love for God and man, the enlightening of our entire being for communion with the Blessed Trinity
Let us fast with a fast pleasing to the Lord. This is the true fast: the casting off of evil, the bridling of the tongue, the cutting off of anger, the cessation of lusts, evil talking, lies and cursing. The stopping of these is the fast true and acceptable.
Genuine fasting which subjects our flesh and its passions to the will of a humbled and contrite spirit is perhaps the most effective means to grow in God’s grace (see Romans 8:1-17). It opens our innermost self to the promptings of the Holy Spirit Who yearns to make our soul His temple. It is this possibility for growth in Christlikeness through fasting that should ignite our self-discipline according to the canons and rules of the Church. Adherence to dietary prescriptions alone easily deteriorates as a negative perception of Lent which does violence both to the intent and purpose of fasting. The point is to give up a measure of our dependence upon the material world in order to experience personally our hunger for God
The days of fasting are days of repentance and contrition. At the same time, they are periods of joy and cheer as believers experience victory and power in their innermost self. Fasting does not imply fatigue, restraint, or irritation, but rather it inspires joy and inward gladness with the Lord reigning within the heart… This is the experience of the Coptic Church particularly during the Holy Week. At that time believers practice asceticism more than at any other time of fasting. The signs of real spiritual joy and consolation filling the heart are so clearly evident then.
Pope Athanasius of Alexandria has recorded this experience. He says: “Let us not fulfill these days like those that mourn, but by enjoying spiritual food, let us try to silence our fleshly lusts. For by these means we shall have strength to overcome our adversaries, like blessed Judith (13:8), when having first exercised herself in fasting and prayers, she overcame the enemies, and killed Olophernes”
How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. You have to plan to make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding.