When I was just a young girl, I read the book titled "Stepping Heavenward" by Elizabeth Prentiss. Mrs. Prentiss lived from 1818 to 1878. I can't seem to locate my book at this time: I have a rather large library for a home library and I have books everywhere so it could be anywhere; so I'm not sure what printing my particular copy is. It is quite old, however. The book has been reprinted numerous times and, in my estimation, it is a classic. I see in looking on the internet that you can even buy it as an e-book. I'm not sure if my copy had the subtitle that is on the reprinted ones or not, but I like it and I think it sums up the book quite well: One Woman's Journey to Godliness. The way I have always described it is: it is about the struggles of a young woman as she strives to become what she should be in Christ and...step Heavenward. I love the description that Amazon gives, and I quote it here: ""How dreadfully old I am getting! Sixteen!"" So begins 'Stepping Heavenward' by Elizabeth Prentiss, the journal-like account of a nineteenth century girl who learns, on the path to womanhood, that true happiness can be found in giving oneself for others. ""This book is a treasure of both Godly and womanly wisdom told with disarming candor and humility, yet revealing a deep heart's desire to know God,"" says noted Christian speaker Elisabeth Elliot. ""I do not hesitate to recommend it to men, who need to understand the wives they live with, and to any woman who wants to walk with God."" Stepping Heavenward: One Woman's Journey to Godliness by Elizabeth Prentiss
This book made quite an impression on me as a young girl and I have thought about it and it's concepts many times down through my life. Stepping Heavenward is a process. Paul talked about it a lot. He had to "die daily." He talked about the struggles of the spiritual man against the flesh and how he would end up doing the things he didn't want to do and the things he wanted to do, he didn't. He vowed to bring his body under the control of the Spirit. I could relate to Katherine, the "Woman" in the book, as she endeavored to pray and all kinds of distractions bombarded her. Her thoughts would wander and she struggled with what words to say. Stepping Heavenward is, indeed, a journey. I speak as to what we are trying to do, not the title of the book.
That brings me to the particular point in "the journey" where I find myself today. As some may know, we began yet another Daniel's Fast just over a week ago. I have been blogging about our experience on a physical level in my health and wellness blog: Take Charge of Your Life. I promised to blog on here about the other side of things. Fasting is one of those spiritual disciplines that nobody likes to do. It is easy to find an excuse to not do it. But I am afraid that it is a necessary and vital part of our journey to Godliness. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:16, "When ye fast...." not "If". This is right after He taught them how to pray and gave them the example of what we call "The Lord's Prayer." Fasting definitely should be something that one does under the leadership of the Spirit and is coupled with much prayer. In fact, as I have heard it said and read it several times: Fasting without prayer is just a diet. While it is physically extremely healthy and good for you, even that part has, or should have, a spiritual end or purpose. When I start to think about what it does for the body, I always end up with spiritual results. Fasting is physical. Our bodies are the temples of God and we are to take care of our temples. We are to deny our flesh; to "keep it under", to practice self-control, to diminish the physical so the spiritual can flourish. Fasting effects a physical change that makes way for a spiritual change. How? The detoxification that occurs when you fast brings a clearing of the mind, improved health, more energy, keener senses, greater understanding, and a heightened spiritual sensitivity. It helps us develop the fruit of the Spirit of Self-Control. Of course, you must be searching for those things in order for you to find them.
Some things, as Jesus told His disciples, "come only through prayer and fasting." This proves to me that Fasting should have a purpose. That purpose could be simply to draw closer to God. Daniel fasted in order to stay away from defiled things but also to stay true (come closer) to His God. To separate himself from one thing and to cling to another. To define a line over which he refused to cross. A quote from the book I am using in this particular fasting time says: "Sometimes you are so hungry, the only way to be fed it to fast." I am seeing God move in our lives, my husband's and mine, in this Fast and before, as we contemplated beginning the Fast. I am sure we have varying differences on what we feel as our individual purposes for Fasting, but we are unified in many of those goals. We have joined with our family across miles as our Son and his family and church participate in a corporate, Called Fast. Even though I am not there in the flesh, I can sense, through our phone conversations, a unity and a oneness in purpose in them as a family unit and I see God's Hand hovering over them and blessing them and drawing them to Himself. An evidence of that very thing came in our phone conversation last night: during their dinner conversation, our granddaughter's began to ask about Fasting and why Mommy and Daddy were fasting. As a result of that questioning, our 8 year old declared that she wanted to fast with Mommy and Daddy and, when asked why, it was that her younger sister, 6-year-old Jordan, would receive the Holy Ghost. Jordan agreed on both accounts and even included that she wanted to be baptized! So they are Fasting today, at least for breakfast, and their purpose, and ours, as we continue our Fast, is for Jordan! Fasting is a powerful tool in our Spiritual Arsenal if we will just use it and allow God to use us in it! Our God is amazing!
My favorite scripture about Fasting is found in Isaiah 58:8, and I quoted it in my posts on Take Charge of Your Life: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily...." That's where I stopped in my quoting, but I love the rest of it: "And thy righteousness shall go before thee, the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer, thou shalt cry, and He shall say, 'Here I Am.'" Such an awesome promise. And, no, I didn't miss-spell that word. It is "rereward." I've wondered about that word and, in attempting to understand it in the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries, my understanding is that it means that the Lord is going to gather together everything that we need and He will destroy totally everything that is against us! Wow! I stand on that Promise and the knowledge that, when I call, He will answer and say "Here I Am!" What else do we need as we continue to 'Step Heavenward'?