Spiritual Armor (Judy Pappoff)
When we parents send our children out into inclement weather, we dress them appropriately. They wear jackets, hats, gloves, and boots if necessary. If rain is forecast, we send them off with a raincoat or an umbrella. We also clothe ourselves appropriately and prepare for whatever the weather forecasters predict. Most parents are conscientious in protecting their children from the elements of weather.
We need to be even more diligent at protecting our children from spiritual elements that are harmful. Scripture and our Holy Fathers predict, forecast, that the “evil one” will try to infiltrate our lives and therefore the lives of our children. How can we protect our children and ourselves? How do we help our children to weather, to struggle and to survive this spiritual storm?
Prayer and fasting are two forms of wearning spiritual armor, ways by which we struggle to protect ourselves from the storm of evil influence. Here are some things to do to help make prayer and fasting meaningful to your family.
1. Take this forecast seriously. The weatherperson on television sometimes makes mistakes in predicting storms. When it comes to spiritual forecast, hoever, there is always a storm approaching. We need to always be “wearing” our protective clothing, our spiritual armor.
2. Morning Prayer. We can help our child visualize morning prayer as being similar to putting on clothing (like armor) that will help protect from evil influence. Just as the child would not go out into the world naked, he or she can learn that rising and starting one’s day without prayer is like going out naked, with no strength to combat the evil one. Help them to imagine that each time they pray, even before meals, they are putting on protection. Remind them that they can pray silently all the time.
3. Fasting as Armor. Fasting is a regular part of Orthodox life. Understanding why we fast will help a child to be more committed in his fasting, making fasting a powerful tool in arming against the “evil one.” Explain that we fast on Wednesdays because this is the day that Jesus was betrayed, and that we fast on Fridays because this is the day He was crucified. Explain that without these days in Jesus’ life, we would not have the possibility of salvation. Remembering Christ’s suffering can help make us stronger. We also fast in preparation for other feast days, and parents can explain the significance of the other fasting periods such as Great Lent and Advent. Fasting has several purposes. It can help us to say “No” to temptations. When we say “No” to some foods, we learn to strengthen our willpower. Fasting helps us to identify with the hungry of the world and may encourage us to help those less fortunate than we. Jesus fasted. He is our model.
Through His prayer and fasting, Christ was strengthened, armored, and He resisted the temptations of the devil. Arming ourselves with prayer and fasting we and our children can be more able to resist temptation – to weather the spiritual storm.
By Judy Pappoff, Faith and Family (April 2003)