President Dr Irfaan Ali has called on religious bodies to unite under the banner of “One Guyana” for a National Day of Fasting and Prayers on Friday, April 8.
The Day of Fasting and Prayers is being called at this time as three significant religious observances are overlapping this month – Muslims are observing Ramadan, Hindus are observing Chaitra Navratri, and Christians are observing Lent. This rare occurrence offers a meaningful opportunity for Guyanese from all religious persuasions to come together to pray for Guyana.
As President Ali had noted in his address on Guyana’s 52nd Republic Anniversary on February 23: “while we are a multicultural and multireligious society, there are some common values in our belief system that we must inculcate if we are to build a stronger Guyana that will bring prosperity for all”. Fasting and praying to draw closer to God is one such commonality.
“Religious fasting, first of all, is an act of humility before God, a penitential expression of our need for conversion from sin and selfishness. Its aim is nothing less than helping us to become more loving persons, loving God above all and our neighbour as ourselves. Its purpose, therefore, is the transformation of our total being – mind, body, and spirit,” said Monsignor Charles Murphy, the author of The Spirituality of Fasting, in defining this spiritual practice.
In other words, fasting is not meant to make us feel bad or to prove to ourselves that we are strong enough to resist temptations. Fasting is meant to make us more loving persons. When we fast for a religious purpose, we do so in order to be transformed in God’s grace and all of our relationships should flourish as a result.
“Fasting,” Msgr Murphy writes, “cannot achieve these aims unless its focus is on God in prayer and not on ourselves.”
As DeTurris Poust observes in a prayerful meditation on fasting and feasting: “So much of life is out of balance today. Too much, too little, too caught up in the whirlwind. The world insists we need more, more, more, more, pushing us to grab all we can. But wait. Slow down. Stop. There is another way, a better way, the only way. Only by emptying ourselves out before God will we find fullness within ourselves.”
The benefits of fasting go beyond the soul. Just as it cleanses and purifies the spirit, bringing us closer to God, it cleanses and purifies the body. When we fast, insulin levels drop and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) increases, boosting fat burning and muscle growth and lowering blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Our cells also initiate important cellular repair processes and change which genes they express, promoting longevity and protection against disease. Fasting helps cleanse the body of waste, including cancer-causing substances, improving the functioning of our hearts, kidneys, and lungs among many other health benefits.
In calling for the National Day of Fasting and Prayers, President Ali is advocating that Guyanese seize the opportunity for religious bodies and persons from all belief systems to join with each other to promote the spirit of togetherness and true health.
“I would like all of us to fast together, pray together, and stay together as “One Guyana”,” he said.
So, let us heed the call so that we may achieve Taqwa (oneness with God, liberation from ignorance, wisdom, and understanding of the mysteries of the majestic universe).