Abiding Part 3: Prayer and Fasting

At the beginning of last year, our church was engaged in a time of fasting and praying, collectively and individually seeking God’s will to start off the year. I was eager to participate and go deeper with the Lord than ever before. One facet of this time of Awakening, as it’s called in my church, involved fasting. My husband and I decided to participate in a Daniel Fast, based on the Old Testament book of the prophet Daniel, in which he said, “So I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and petitions, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3) and “I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth (Daniel 10:3a).

To say that this was an adjustment for me would be accurate. By day three of the fast, I had the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life. As I detoxed from the sugar that was apparently a big part of my daily intake, I chugged water and went to bed, vowing to never touch another piece of chocolate again in my life (as I write this now, let’s just say that I am one of the 93% of people who broke my resolution on that one)! Once my initial discomfort had passed, I found, as did my husband, that I really enjoyed this clean eating. We felt better, my skin looked better, and by the end of the fast we each had lost 25 pounds. The strange thing was, we were eating such a wide variety of food that we never felt truly deprived. God really does provide a bounty of wonderful choices when we slow down and realize it. Even the planning, selecting, and preparing of our meals became a part of this new ‘abiding’ that I was walking out with the Lord.

The second facet of this time of abiding with regard to our Awakening period in our church was prayer. We were encouraged to choose a specific person or area of our lives for whom we would pray during the 21-day period. Our college-aged daughter had been plagued with chronic pain, anxiety, and depression for years, so we made the decision to intercede on her behalf during this time. Each day we would pray for her to receive physical and emotional healing. On Wednesdays we attended special church services that focused solely on worship and prayer. Talk about powerful! I took the opportunity to pray on her behalf so seriously that at times it felt like life and death in my spirit. I was desperate to run to the altar and intercede for her with God. We believed so strongly for her healing, but knowing God is God and we are not, we also prayed for His will in her life above all. I’m a firm believer that, like the child of a good Father, you ask for what you want, and then you ultimately accept what He will give, following Jesus’s instruction and examples:

If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. (John 15:7), and “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42).

When the 21 days of Awakening were up, I was honestly very hesitant to come off of the fast. We felt so much better, our grocery bills were cut in half because of not buying meat, and I was loving the variety of foods we enjoyed. So we continued with a modified version, allowing for the occasional fish, egg, cheese, or dessert. Enough about the food for now, but it does have significance later, so put a pin here.

We continued to pray and wait for breakthroughs. It was slow at first, but as 2020 notoriously progressed, they started coming, one miraculously after the other.

The first one was fairly immediate, and directly tied to an aspect of the fast. You see, during this time, our daughter also participated in a fast, choosing to refrain from using Twitter, Instagram, and FaceBook. She noticed an improvement in her outlook once the constant barrage of negativity from social media was removed. At this time she also began seeing a counselor at school and began getting to the root of some of the debilitating anxiety and depression. This was the beginning, the tiniest first step toward an important realization of something that was needing to be faced, something from which she required healing to move forward. As the months of counseling progressed, she discovered that she had never dealt with her dear friend’s suicide, and much of her anxiety and depression resulted from attempts to ignore or suppress the trauma of that event. Moving through this painfully difficult task, she began to heal emotionally.

During this same time Covid-19 made its way to the U.S., and both of our daughters came home from college, forced to finish out their semesters online. When our older daughter arrived home, she was in such pain in her knees, hips, and lower back, she could barely walk or sit upright. She had experienced joint pain before, but never like this. From about the time she was five, we had taken her to doctors to find out what was going on with her. Her pediatrician repeatedly suggested Motrin and finally, after years, referred us to a children’s rheumatologist. The rheumatologist summed up her condition as being hyperflexible. “Nothing to worry about; just be careful not to overstretch the joints in sports,” she said casually. From the time she was a young teen, she had had braces on both knees, one ankle, and both wrists, had had surgery on her wrist and hand three times, surgery to stabilize her ankle which required her to learn how to walk again, years of physical therapy, and chiropractic care. There had to be something causing this condition, but we still had no answers, and things had never been debilitating on such a large scale.

For a couple of years I had been part of a business networking group in a nearby city, and a regenerative and functional health facility was a member there as well. I had mentioned this facility to my daughter in the past, hoping she’d be open to seeing the providers; she was finally ready. Here’s where the miracles came tumbling one after the other in the life of this girl for whom we’d been fasting and praying.

We learned more in one month about the multiple causes of my daughter’s condition than we had learned in years prior. Through food intolerance testing, we learned that she was sensitive to wheat, gluten, whey, dairy, eggs, bananas, peanuts, blueberries, coffee, and onions. A chemical study of a sample of her hair revealed that she was severely deficient in many vitamins and minerals, so we began a regimen to remedy those deficiencies. We also learned that she had scoliosis, so much so that when we saw the X-rays, I thought they had the wrong ones. Those couldn’t be hers— her spine was shaped like the letter S!

“HOW had we never been made aware of this?” I questioned. “She’s been X-rayed so many times! They’ve done the scoliosis screenings every year at her check-ups! She’s been to a chiropractor who’d adjusted her spine!” The chiropractor there explained that most nurses only look for severe (30 degrees off or more) scoliosis during physicals, and that previous X-rays were probably never full spine. It was flabbergasting. I still shake my head thinking about those films. My daughter would begin chiropractic adjustments, twice a week, for at least the next nine months to correct what could be corrected.

God’s timing and provision through this journey has been nothing short of miraculous, and I have no doubt that it directly results from our period of fasting and praying. Remember that I mentioned changing our eating habits in January? As a result of our time of fasting, I was already familiar with preparing many meals that didn’t include wheat, gluten, whey, eggs, or dairy. Transitioning to preparing meals that removed allergens proved to be relatively easy. The biggest adjustment has been eliminating onions—those buggers are in everything! As we eliminated those foods from her diet, she began to have a noticeable decrease in pain and inflammation over a period of a couple of weeks. Even migraines, which had bothered her at least every couple of weeks for years, virtually became nonexistent, and she was able to come off her medication for those.

Additionally, we learned about stem-cell injections that would help stabilize and pause something akin to joint deterioration in her hips, ankles, and wrists caused by an unspecified genetic condition causing her to produce too much elastin and not enough collagen. The ultimate hope was that these stem cell injections would hopefully build and repair structure in those areas. I had learned about these stem cell injections through my networking group, and they sounded like a very promising option. There was only one obstacle: the cost was not covered by insurance, and because of the large number of injections recommended, the total was to be $15,700. When my daughter’s doctor quoted that amount to us, my heart seemed to physically fall into my stomach. We would do anything, anything, to help alleviate our daughter’s condition, and here we were with a promising procedure, yet it looked like the cost was going to prevent it from being available to us. The doctor went on to explain that we could apply for a medical credit card, blah blah blah… I don’t remember hearing much of those details, because we have no credit cards and do not assume debt of any kind. My husband wasn’t at this appointment; what would he think? Would he balk at the cost? Would we consider applying for the card to make this happen? Would this be just a desperate but ineffective treatment to relieve our daughter’s suffering? So many questions…

I didn’t even broach the subject with my husband until the next morning. We have a routine where I get up with him before he leaves for work in the mornings so we can pray together and steal a few minutes alone together before the busyness of the day starts in. I swallowed hard as I explained what the doctor had shared about the stem cell procedure. I started crying before I ever got to the details about the cost, because I dreaded the possibility that he might say that we couldn’t do that. I blubbered on and finally blurted out, “It’s $15,700 for the injections in multiple joints! I know we probably can’t swing it, but it sounds so hopeful!” Then I resumed sobbing in his arms.

My sweet husband, gently stopped me and said, “Well, hold on; let me check some numbers in our account and emergency fund.” He left me on the couch to pull up our account on the computer. When he returned, he said, “God is so good. Guess what?”

I dared not to hope…

“We have exactly $15,600 in our emergency fund.”

“SHUT. UP!” I exclaimed, “SHUT. UP!!!”

Then I started bawling again at the incredible provision of God—-how involved He is in every aspect of our lives! How much He is in the details, paving the way through this networking group that I had joined nearly three years before, through hearing about this procedure, through our finances being prepared for such a time as this!

My daughter and I returned to the functional health practice again that week, prepared for her to receive the 13 stem cell injections in her wrists, ankles, and hips. That sounds like so many, and it was, were it not for the many cortisone injections, blood draws, and surgeries she’d already endured in the previous seven years.

We left that day, returned home, and waited expectantly.

I’m so grateful and thankful to report that within a few days, she started to notice a change and feel an astounding improvement in each of the places the stem cells were injected. Now, months later, these joints are noticeably stabilized and strengthened. More than that, our faith in God’s love and healing power for us has been strengthened. We can say with conviction that He is our Great Physician, our Provider, our Comfort, our Peace. Learning to abide, practicing the holy privilege of fasting and praying, and interceding for our daughter has transformed our relationship with Him. In this the first part of the new year, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to participate in fasting and prayer. You may not experience your breakthrough in the same way as our family did, but I promise it will align your heart with God’s and enable you to walk with Him closer than ever before.