Prayer and fasting PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 August 2015 13:41

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

This might seem to be too religious or spiritual a topic to be taken up in the secular press. But I however believe that we should dismantle that mistaken attitude, because prayer and fasting, especially nowadays when our spiritual and moral conditions have worsened, have actually become most urgently relevant.

We have to understand that prayer and fasting are always necessary to us. They are not optional activities reserved only to some people or to some special occasions. They are duties that involve everyone.

And as duties, they have to be done freely, voluntarily, with love and devotion even, because otherwise they would cease to do good to us as they are meant to do. Duties done out of coercion or heavy pressure poison their objective goodness and thwart the purpose for which they have been designed.

I believe this is an issue that is literally begging to be given due public attention. It has been restricted for too long already in the confines of churches, the academe, etc. It needs to be brought out to the open, into the fields of business and politics, sciences, arts and technologies, etc.

Yes, we have to find a way to bring God, without let-up and without shame, to the very center of every human activity. And vice-versa: we also need to find a way to link all our human activities, no matter how mundane, with God, his will and his ways.

God has the primary right to be in the middle of our activities, since everything and everyone comes from him and belongs to him. This is not an imposition, but a mere recognition of a basic reality of our life.

Prayer and fasting are necessary because Christ himself, who is the very pattern of our humanity, the way, truth and life for us, and the redeemer of our fallen state, practically showed it to be so.

Right after his baptism in the Jordan and just before beginning his public life, he went to the wilderness for forty days and forty nights praying and fasting, after which the devil gave him three temptations that ranged from the material to the moral and spiritual aspects of human life. (cfr Mt 4,1ff.)

In this way, Christ somehow teaches us how to handle the many temptations we can encounter in our earthly sojourn. He is teaching us that we need to enter into deep if not prolonged prayer and fasting if only to be ready to counter the temptations in life. Without these, there’s no way we can tackle temptations that nowadays have become most subtle and tricky.

At the moment, we are bombarded with many good things that also have great potentials of doing us a lot of harm. I am referring to the new technologies that indeed can give us a lot of benefits, but can also inflict graver havoc in our spiritual and moral life.

This is not to instill fear with respect to the new technologies, but rather to learn how to master and dominate them for love of God and for the common good. We should not be enslaved by them. To do this, we have to realize that we need to pray and fast—and fasting not only in the sense of fasting from food, but also of fasting from the use of these new technologies.

Fasting together with prayer somehow conforms our bodily impulses to the requirements of faith, hope and charity, the fundamental virtues that assure us of the life proper to us, that is, life together with God, our Father and creator. It disciplines and purifies our wounded flesh and all its powers.

Let’s remember that, by themselves, our bodily impulses, especially in our  human condition, are only guided and driven by material and earthly values of sensual pleasure, comfort, convenience, efficiency, etc. They are quite blind to spiritual and supernatural values primarily meant for us.

If our use of the new technologies is not motivated by love of God and for the common good, if it does not lead us to a greater intimacy with God and with others, then it is clear that weare using them in a dangerous way.

Sooner or later, we will get into trouble, since the earthly values can easily occasion in us pride, vanity, greed, lust, envy and laziness. We will generate division and conflict among ourselves. We don’t have to look far to see the abundant pieces of evidence.

We need to find ways of discovering and promoting the skills and practices that would put God in the center of our human activities.