Climbing Our Spiritual Alps
The heart and spirit are equipped for the conflict with satanic power by prayer and fasting. The spirit grows strong through use. If prayer is neglected, the spirit flags. Nothing can take the place of fasting and prayer.
Some are so busy in Christian work they can give no time to prayer – and so are powerless. What would you think of a woodsman who declared he was too busy felling trees to sharpen his axe? It is in prayer that the inner victory is gained over the enemy before he is faced in the open. He who grapples with the foe on his knees before he stands up to face him finds him already beaten, and the victory won.
If we are to keep a clean, alert, strong spirit, there are some things that must be denied – things which are right in themselves but which have a dulling, deadening influence upon the spirit. It is here the heart must be disciplined. There are longings in the heart for legitimate things, which if yielded to will take the keen edge off the spirit life and unfit us for a more fruitful and effectual work.
The importance of fasting in order to overcome satanic power is clearly seen in Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death."
It is the loving of our lives that weakens our spirits and makes us unfit for the fight. No great achievement is obtained without sacrifice. When one thinks of the discipline necessary for those climbers who attempt Mount Everest in order to fit them to endure the hardships involved in their effort to overcome that great mountain, one gets some idea of the thought expressed here of loving not our lives.
In the case of the mountaineers the slightest self-indulgence would have lessened their chances of success. Even so, our fight for mastery with the supernatural powers of darkness calls for the greatest possible demand upon our spiritual strength, and any unfitness lessens our chances of final victory. So few of us know what spiritual discipline means. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14), that is, full-grown sons.
The natural life must be denied if the Spirit is to be obeyed and union with Christ maintained. It is this self-denial, which constitutes true fasting and gives the spiritual strength and endurance which can "withstand in the evil day, and having done all…stand" (Eph. 6:13) until Satan is forced to yield.
The early Church conceived of their life as a military service under a heavenly General who supplied them with His own armor (Eph. 6:10-18). Prayer was their watch they had to keep; sin and Satan was their enemy; the heavenly Fatherland was the Kingdom to be attained, and eternal bliss was the wreath of victory.