God has given us spiritual gifts to do the ministry to which He has called us. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that we need to stir up those gifts within us:
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:6-8)
Let us examine the gifts of power, love, and a sound mind. First let us understand that we need power from God, not our own power when we go up against the enemy. God’s power gives us authority in his name:
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:25-29)
One of the best ways to prepare ourselves to exercise God’s power is through prayer and fasting. Daniel was a great prophet and intercessor. If he was going to approach God through intercessory prayer he realized that fasting was an essential part of his preparation:
Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying,
“Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:3-6)
Daniel loved God very much and wanted to express his devotion to God. Fasting was one of the ways Daniel entered into the presence of God. His heart sought the heart of God. Thus, his prayers were so very effective.
Discernment is essential in carrying out our ministry. We need a “sound mind” to understand what may be happening around us. Such a mind is more than merely being intellectual. We need the mind of Christ so that we may see and understand spiritual things. Anna could see things that others did not. She recognized who Jesus was when his parents brought him into the Temple to be circumcised. One of her keys was prayer and fasting:
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
There are many ways to fast. What is essential in fasting is the denial of ourselves so that we are freer to focus our attention on God. Our flesh often so easily gets in the way of our best efforts at communicating with God. It will always make demands upon us, particularly during times of prayer. Fasting, however, helps us move the demands of the flesh out of the way.