Family Tonic reader: “Sir, it is said that a hungry man is an angry man. How do we now fast and at the same time avoid anger and its consequences? Please sir, kindly discuss this in your Family Tonic Column as we go through this Lenten period. I am alive every Saturday because of you. Thanks sir. I will appreciate your reply.”.
Eight months after I was born-again, I attended and identified with Isuikwuato Christians Crusade Organisation (ISUCCO) during their December 1972 camp meeting at Annunciation Secondary School. Fasting was declared on December 24. That was my first fasting. Some of us went to minister at Umodinja, one of the villages in Ovim. On request, we went and prayed for a sick lady and the testimony of her healing was received not long after. Going back to our camp by 6pm, we passed through my compound, where I had arranged food to be prepared for us.
When the food was brought, I prayed over it and invited my brethren to the table. None of them answered. I could not understand. One of them from Anambra, not even a member of ISUCCO, said: “How can I be eating, when I do not know the fate of my brethren!” It was difficult for me to swallow the ball of eba inside my mouth. I felt very much ashamed. That was even the time Christians in the universities were branded carnal! Reaching there, our brethren were busy praying. We joined them. The prayer session continued till about 8pm. I learnt that day, that fasting is far beyond missing food. It is rather a preparation for prayers. It helps in shading off the flesh for the spirit to communicate with God.
During my long vacation at Aba in 1973, it was announced during the Scripture Union fellowship: “Come on Saturday at 9am without eating”. I did, believing that the programme would end by noon. For where! For every passing hour, I thought we were closing but we never did! I remembered different types of food, even the ones I would not like to eat normally. The clock was slow, very slow, in ticking. My God! My stomach rumbled and grumbled but the prayer continued. We closed at 6pm. What I had learnt about fasting was confirmed to me once again, that fasting has much to do with prayers and not mere missing of food.
When we came back to the campus, one day, the Christian Union declared fasting. It was not to be broken that day but the next morning, after a vigil. It was not easy but better than my experience at Aba. I was no longer a spiritual toddler, growth had started gradually. Fasting to me from that day was never to be broken until the next morning. It remained my practice till I left school and even till the church we were leading, started fasting every Monday and breaking in the evening. My family, in addition, started to fast every Wednesday and no one was exempted after the age of five. I take the long journey today, when occasion warrants it.
Fasting does not bestow any favour to God. It is all about you. God remains God whether or not we fast. Until the other person understands what we mean, communication means nothing. Fasting helps us to get through to God. My feeling during the fasting, therefore, means nothing to me. It is rather a distraction to me. My stomach may complain, but it will do nothing unless my mouth serves it with food. My mouth needs the assistance of my hand for this. If my hands and mouth refuse to cooperate, my stomach remains in that state!
I may yawn; it means nothing to me. Do sportsmen not practise, even in cold weather? Do they not climb hills to build energy? What matters to them is to win the game. I did not go to secondary school but I decided that I must enter the university and that meant winning government scholarship. It needed discipline, irrespective of how my body was feeling. To avoid sleep, I would bury one of my legs at night inside a bucket of water! I was not angry with myself or with anybody. I rather loved what I was doing and it paid off!
People fasted in the Bible for different reasons. There was a public disaster the day King Saul lost his head on a mission to kill David and the Philistines saw his corpse and cut off his head and took his body to the house of their gods. The people of Jebeshgilead, who Saul had delivered from their enemies, recovered his body and fasted for a week -1Sam 31:11-13. Seeking God’s face for his child not to die drove David to fast – 2Sam 12:16. It was anxiety about the fate of Daniel, who he had commanded to be thrown into the lions’ den, that made the unbelieving King Darius to fast – Dan. 6:18-20. Mordecai’s word to Queen Esther, his niece, about the fate of God’s people trembling on the balance, compelled her to declare fasting for a change of that situation – Esth. 4:16.
The need for national repentance prompted the people of God to fast – 1Sam 7:5-6. Nehemiah, living comfortably in a foreign land, was given bad news about Jerusalem. He fasted and prayed for God’s mercy – Neh. 1:4. For sacred ordination of God’s people for missions, our brethren fasted in Acts 13:3. It is unimaginable that the Lord Jesus, in preparation for His Ministry, fasted – Matt 4:1-2.
Fasting is the time for praises, prayers, confession of sin, mourning, humiliation, etc. Jesus recommended it, hence He said, “When ye (not if) fast – Matt. 6:16. Asked why His disciples could not deliver a demonised child, He said, “This kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting” – Matt.17:21. There are more of such today than during the time of Jesus. I was fasting the day Satan sent his daughter to me, a White lady, in New York. He does not know all things, otherwise he would not have sent her to me that day! She met a brick wall!
There is a great difference between fasting and being hungry. Hunger results from absence of food for whatever reason. The person wants to eat but none is available. This is why he can be angry. God has made the body to be refreshed with food on daily basis. On the other hand, fasting is self imposed. A plate of rice, steaming stew and a plate of choice meat and fish may be before you and you decide not to eat. How can such a man be angry? You do not need your Pastor or anybody to superintend you. The desire is to reach to God.
Hunger strike takes place when people are protesting for something. It is not fasting. Fasting is fasting if it is fasting!
For further comment, Please contact: Osondu Anyalechi: 0802 3002-471; [email protected]