On Fasting: Fasting for a time or fasting for a purpose?

In his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, General George Washington acknowledged a day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer” proclaimed by the Continental Congress to be held on Thursday, May 6, 1779. This has since been shortened to The National Day of Prayer  and is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation“. Each year since its inception, the president has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.

Gone is the humiliation aspect. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds nowadays, to Abraham Lincoln in 1863 it meant: Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow in humble submission to His chastisements, to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to pray with all fervency and contrition for the pardon of their past offenses…

On May 15, 1776, Gen. George Washington ordered:

“The Continental Congress having ordered Friday the 17th instant to be observed as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, humbly to supplicate the mercy of Almighty God, that it would please Him to pardon all our manifold sins and transgressions, and to prosper the arms of the United Colonies, and finally establish the peace and freedom of America upon a solid and lasting foundation; the General commands all officers and soldiers to pay strict obedience to the orders of the Continental Congress; that, by their unfeigned and pious observance of their religious duties, they may incline the Lord and Giver of victory to prosper our arms.”

Times have changed: The 2015 National day of prayer can be simplified to Obama asking for God’s continued guidance, mercy, and protection as we seek a more just world. 

Today, the aspect of humiliation is gone. Well, not altogether.

During a speech to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Hillary Clinton lamented that white Americans have a long way to go in realizing all the ways they’ve been given unfair advantages over the nation’s minority populations.

“White Americans must do a much better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day,” she said. “We need to recognize our privilege and practice humility rather than assume our experiences are everyone else’s experiences.”

So, I guess humility is not totally dead, it seems to be one of her strong points.

But I wanted to discuss fasting. 

Do we fast, and if so, why do we fast?

Let us see what scripture says about the subject. In Zechariah 7:4-5 the  prophet wrote: Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying,  “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? 

This was a fast for a time.  The Muslim world holds a hard fast every Muslim year during the month of Ramadan, their 9th month, and since Islam is a lunar based religion with 12 lunar months making one year, Ramadan occurs 11 days earlier every year. This fast is to commemorate the revelation of the giving of the five mandatory contact prayers to be prayed by everybody at very specific times. As an example, the noon prayer must be started 2 min after the sun is in its zenith. To start it any earlier might offend Allah. This is not really a true fast, it is corporate mind control.

So, what is a true fast? In Isaiah 58:3-6 the prophet writes:

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
 Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
You will not fast as you do this day,
To make your voice heard on high.
 Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord?

 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Jesus adds a new dimension to fasting. I Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says:

 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Jesus says, when you fast, not if. We are urged to fast, individually, not as part of a group fasting in solidarity, but to seek God’s face, in other words, fast for a purpose.

As we fast, let us fast and pray for a purpose as is stated in 2 Chronicles 7:14

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

 

Obama’s 2013 Thanksgiving proclamation vs Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation.

THANKSGIVING DAY,obama_swearingin2

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Thanksgiving offers each of us the chance to count our many blessings the freedoms we enjoy, the time we spend with loved ones, the brave men and women who defend our Nation at home and abroad. This tradition reminds us that no matter what our background or beliefs, no matter who we are or who we love, at our core we are first and foremost Americans.

Our annual celebration has roots in centuries old colonial customs. When we gather around the table, we follow the example of the Pilgrims and Wampanoags, who shared the fruits of a successful harvest nearly 400 years ago. When we offer our thanks, we mirror those who set aside a day of prayer. And when we join with friends and neighbors to alleviate suffering and make our communities whole, we honor the spirit of President Abraham Lincoln, who called on his fellow citizens to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

Our country has always been home to Americans who recognize the importance of giving back.

Today, we honor all those serving our Nation far from home. We also thank the first responders and medical professionals who work through the holiday to keep us safe, and we acknowledge the volunteers who dedicate this day to those less fortunate.

This Thanksgiving Day, let us forge deeper connections with our loved ones. Let us extend our gratitude and our compassion.

And let us lift each other up and recognize, in the oldest spirit of this tradition, that we rise or fall as one Nation, under God.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Thursday, November 28, 2013, as a National Day of Thanksgiving. I encourage the people of the United States to join together whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors and give thanks for all we have received in the past year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and share our bounty with others.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentysixth Day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty eighth.

BARACK OBAMA 

This time Barack Obama quoted directly a part of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation that mentions the Almighty hand. Unfortunately the quote is hanging without reference to what the Almighty hand refers to.  Unfortunately the Almighty hand has gotten a wider connotation in modern use. Sen. Orrin Hatch among many others has mentioned “the almighty hand of the federal government”. We get a hint that it must refer to God since he puts it in the last part of the proclamation One Nation, under God. When he recited the Gettysburg address just a few days earlier he omitted the two words “Under God”.

In Abraham Lincolns address on the other hand it is obvious that it is to God we give thanks, not neighbors friends, first responders etc. We should and must be thankful for that.

But first we must give thanks to God. That is what Thanksgiving is all about.

See his proclamation below.

 

October 3, 1863abraham-lincoln-picture

By the President of the United States
A Proclamation

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United Stated States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln