By Jim Maxim
There was a time in my life when I didn’t know about the Bible, church, or Jesus—let alone what fasting and praying to Him involved. All of my ignorance, however, changed after a near-fatal car accident on December 27, 1971, when I encountered God for the very first time.
On that night, I had no idea I’d crashed my car into a telephone pole under the influence of alcohol. At 18-years-old and reaching six-foot three-inches tall, my life consisted of abusing drugs and alcohol and then working my way out of tough situations (nights in jail after fist fights). While my mother became a Christian in her youth, she had stopped practicing when she married my father and began raising us eight children, five who were alcoholics like myself. This was my training ground, and I really didn’t know another way to live.
In fact, when the cops called her this time around, she went by herself to visit me in intensive care because my dad was not in a condition to accompany her. When she came into my hospital room, the doctor was pulling glass out of my face himself because he couldn’t find a plastic surgeon to assist him. She barely recognized me.
He told her that I had 300 stitches, a broken jaw, and that if the five feeding tubes that were keeping me alive helped to wake me from my coma, I might have brain damage and most likely would never see out of my left eye again. You can imagine the hopelessness my mother felt in that moment.
But it was actually on that same night, the night I met the Lord, that my mother decided she had no one else to turn to as well. In her hopelessness, she heard the enemy say, “Isabelle, where is this great God of yours?” but she also knew that prayer was her only option. Over the years, she had seen her home repossessed, her marriage fail, and her children suffer, so she decided to run home, kneel beside her bed, and cry out to Jesus.
In that moment, she felt the Holy Spirit’s presence and began to praise God for who He is—a good Father—even in the midst of great suffering. She also began to pray scriptures out loud over me and my situation. She saw a vision of God touching my left eye and had total peace that I was in God’s hands.
While she was at peace, however, I was experiencing the exact opposite. In my coma, I felt like I was falling through darkness. Now, I was never the type of guy to have dreams or see visions. In fact, I thought anyone who did was a freak. But as I lay there in my coma, I knew that two dark beings were hovering over me and were going to take me down. I didn’t know what to call them, but I knew I was a goner and couldn’t get myself out of a bad situation this time.
It was then that Jesus Christ came in a vision to me and asked me, “Jimmy, you’ve been playing around long enough. Do you want to continue?” Like Paul on the road to Damascus, God showed up and knocked me off my horse. And like Paul, the revelation of Jesus was so powerful to me —and the revelation of the darkness that could overtake me—that I simply asked, “What do I have to do?”
Jesus replied, “If you ask me to cleanse you and fill you, I will. I’ll become your best friend.” In my brokenness, I said, “Please help me. I’m sorry.” At that very moment, what I now know to be two demons immediately left the room.
I officially woke up two days later in intensive care, and the first words I muttered out of broken jaw to my mother were, “Jesus was here.” Looking at her, I realized He had visited me because of her prayers. She knew my testimony was real too because when my friends came to the hospital with drugs and alcohol hidden in their backpacks, I told them that I wasn’t going to live that way anymore. They laughed and said I’d hit my head a little too hard.
I won’t go into the details of my full recovery, but let’s just say that after I was healed—no brain damage or blindness as predicted—I launched into getting to know this Jesus better, through the Word, fellowship, and prayer. I served in the Marines from 1971-1974 and experienced a physical boot camp, which took me on a spiritual journey of what my weapons and warfare tactics are in Christ to fight life’s real battles, as Ephesians 6 outlines: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
I also met and married my wife Cathy during this time, and we began to pray together. We were so hungry for God and could see that our prayers were heard. The more we spent time in prayer, the more we saw who God was and Him intervene on our behalf.
I remember one such day during this time when I was traveling for business. I prayed, “Father, please use me today to make someone’s faith come alive.” I immediately received a call that my scheduled flight had been changed and that I’d have to board a jet instead. When I arrived, I saw only one man inside as a passenger. I thought to myself, “Wow! God really heard my prayer and emptied an entire passenger flight so I could have a conversation with this one man about Him.”
I excitedly sat down, and impatiently waited for the seatbelt sign to turn off. When it did, I became annoyed because the only flight attendant on board would not leave me alone. She kept asking me if I wanted coffee, snacks, or water. She wouldn’t stop bugging me. And then it hit me: “It’s not him; it’s her.” I began to make small talk with her, and by the end of the flight she had given her life to Jesus.
Stories like this one excited me to continue to go deeper with God, but it wasn’t until ten years into my walk with Christ that I began to read about the discipline and power of fasting coupled with prayer. I knew it was another discipline God was calling me to since Matthew 6:16 declares: “When you fast…” This verse assumed that I was doing it, and I wasn’t.
So in obedience, I started. I actually “started” for about 10-15 years and failed so often that I just about gave up on fasting altogether. I used to start a fast in the morning and quit by lunch. I would be so bombarded by thoughts of intense hunger that I would give in and start eating. I wouldn’t cheat by eating a large meal, but I certainly would get some peanut butter crackers from the vending machine at work; and then it began—the feeling of being a complete loser, at least spiritually.
And this is where I went wrong. I had read all the stories about the “giants of the faith” who fasted and the big things that God revealed to them or did through them. I thought I would never reach “their level.” I also thought fasting was going without food or specific foods and realized—that’s dieting. A spiritual fast is about immersing ourselves in the Word, spending much time in prayer, and of course, “shutting down the bear” inside us that craves food.
Over time and after years of failure, the Holy Spirit began to truly teach me about fasting, and I learned to rely on Him more and more. I had so many things to learn about myself—my pride and independence—it took me longer to understand it wasn’t a striving. I learned how to “despise not small beginnings” as the scriptures state and begin small—with giving up coffee and using the absence of the thing I desired most to seek the Lord in prayer. At this time, fasting became enjoyable for me, as I saw it as an invitation and a privileged to partner with God in His healing work. It was no longer a drudgery.
So 20 odd years after I met Jesus Christ, I finally had a lifestyle of fasting. This lifestyle was inspired by a verse I had read in Matthew 17:19-21 about a young boy with a demon, which the disciples could not cast out but Jesus could. After reading these verses, I became impassioned about prayer—prayer alongside faith and fasting—that could come against any darkness and have power over it. Searching the scriptures, I also learned that Jesus himself had to fast for 40 days before being filled with the Holy Spirit to heal and deliver those around him and that the early church had to as well in order to receive the Holy Spirit and His gifts. And that’s what I truly desired—for the Spirit of God to descend and dramatically change lives the way He did for me.
By God’s grace, I was able to experience such a moment when I spoke at Chester State Prison. I had a group interceding and fasting for me, and before I began to speak to the 150 men in the chapel, God told me to put my notes aside. So I did just that and began to pray.
When I started to speak, the presence of God showed up. I told them: “Today is your day. You don’t have to go back to your cell the same. What you did is why you’re here, but that’s not who you are—who God created you to be.” I asked them to come down for prayer if they wanted to know God and become saved (salvation comes from the Greek word “sozo” meaning saved, healed, and delivered). It was like I said, “First one down here gets out of prison free!” They all ran forward. It was truly supernatural.
I didn’t realize it then, but God also wanted to show me that prayer and fasting wasn’t just about the salvation of souls—that it could be about learning secrets—even best business practices —that He wanted to share with me. So one day, I started asking God to help me become a better manager of what He had given me. I knew in my heart that God had something more for my start-up company, but I wasn’t sure what. What came to me from this time of fasting and prayer was an idea that then became an international software company. From this instance, I learned that God is interested in speaking to us about all the aspects of our lives. He wants to redeem everything—not just our souls—and give us access to all His creativity, intelligence, and goodness!
Now, after 43 years of marriage, at 65 years old, with a relationship with God going on more than 40 years, I can look back and see how God used the power of prayer and fasting in my life—to not only get to know Him but give me the wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and favor with man to build an international company, launch a national prayer ministry, set up a sustainable prison ministry, and become an author and speaker. As a man with no college education and a former drug and alcohol abuser, it’s quite obvious that these blessings had nothing to do with me—and everything to do with God.
As I enter into retirement now, my desire is to ignite the church to a lifestyle of prayer and fasting. I frequently wonder, “Why do we think we can operate our lives as Christians without this conscious, deliberate, intentional, and valuable spiritual discipline to become what the Lord has intended for each of us?”
Fasting has helped me renew my friendship with the Lord; re-calibrate my faith by emptying my mind of conventional wisdom; and remember it’s not the size of my faith but the size of my God that matters. In order for the church to truly be the church, we need to understand and take action regarding prayer and fasting. If we get it right, we could change our world. Jesus got it, and He did. And He also says to us, “As I am in the world so are you.”