Tue | Oct 16, 2018

The religious right of fasting

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMShanna kaye Monteith

Biblically, fasting is the abstinence from food, drink, sleep, and sex to focus on a period of spiritual growth.

The importance of the practice is religiously reiterated in the Church, especially during this Lenten period, when Jesus is believed to have embarked on a 40-day fast just before his crucifixion.

However, it is important to note that the selfless practice was an integral part of the lives of those who the Bible talks about in the Old Testament.

Sharing on the issue, the Reverend Lloyd Millen of the Cumberland Community Church in Portmore, St Catherine, said the religious rite of fasting has been a practice among God's people from the time of Moses and the Law (Levi. 16.29, 23.29; 1 Sam. 75; Jer. 14.12).

"The time of fasting allowed for humility, weeping, mourning, denial of food and drink and personal pleasure for intense seeking the Lord, confession of sins, repentance, and making wrongs right.

"The prophet Isaiah gave a full discourse on Jehovah's attitude towards the fast He requires of his people under the Old Covenant. So fasting played a very vital spiritual role in the life of the people of God under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, the emphasis on fasting is less expressed," he said.

Millen told Family & Religion that the practice is often taken for granted as there are no specific commands in the New Testament with regard to fasting.

According to him: "Fasting was not a central issue in Jesus' teaching. He never command his disciples to fast or gave any regulations concerning the practice. Jesus cautioned his disciples not to imitate the practices of the religious leaders of his day with regard to fasting (Matt. 6.16-18). He instructed them that their fasting should be a matter of private worship between themselves and their heavenly father. However, there certainly is a place for corporate fasting among the people of God. For this corporate observance, one would have to adopt principles evident among the people of God under the Old Covenant."

However, the reverend agreed that the practice of fasting is still held in high regard among churches today, which, according to him, can be validated if one should visit most churches on a Wednesday - a popular fasting day.