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Fasting And Prayer At Easter Can Be Meaningful And Beneficial, Especially During A Pandemic

Fasting And Prayer At Easter Can Be Meaningful And Beneficial, Especially During A Pandemic

Fast days are typically observed to unite members pertaining to a single religious community, but the global pandemic has brought people of multiple faiths and denominations together.

Cover image for representational purposes only.

The benefits of fasting are becoming more and more well-known to all. Despite its recent surge in popularity, fasting as a practice that dates back centuries and plays a central role in many cultures and religions. This is more interesting if you are a practicing Catholic—Easter is just around the corner and nearly all of this community fasts on Good Friday before this special day. “It’s all part of our worship of God,” said Timothy O’Malley, who serves as director of education at the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, Catholics will not be the only ones of faith skipping meals on Good Friday. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has asked members of his church to spend the day fasting and praying for relief from the coronavirus and invited nonmembers to do the same. “I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday ... that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened and life normalized,” he said on April 4. “Let us unite in pleading for healing throughout the world.”



 

 

Aside from Mr. Nelson, Rev. Walter Kim, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, announced a similar call to fast and pray to people of faith across the country. “On Good Friday, let’s ... pray and fast throughout the nation,” he said. Although it's a well-known fact that many religious traditions around the world teach that fasting is an extremely meaningful spiritual practice, it's quite uncommon to witness so many people of faith skipping meals at the same time, for the same purpose. Fast days are typically observed to unite members pertaining to a single religious community, but the global pandemic has brought people of multiple faiths and denominations together.  



 

 

“We’re all in this together,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes on Catholicism for Religion News Service. This is the message that pastors and priests want followers of their faith to convey and the intent is especially meaningful during the coronavirus pandemic, as community-mindfulness is one thing that can actually save people's lives. “There’s no way of protecting ourselves from this virus by ourselves,” the Rev. Reese said.



 

 

“This is not about one-upmanship and who can fast the most. Rather, it’s something we do as a community and as a family,” the Rev. Reese said. “The idea is you’re emptying yourself so that you can be more receptive to receiving the spirit and receiving God,” he added. “If you have a full stomach and you’re bloated, you’re apt to fall asleep, not to be open to the presence of the spirit.” “Fasting (during Lent) is about imitating the actions of Jesus as portrayed in the gospel and uniting yourself with him in his sacrifice on the cross,” he said.



 

 

“There’s always been support for helping the hungry and needy through fasting,” said Jonathan Stapley, a Latter-day Saint historian, and scientist. For the followers of the Latter-day Saints, fasting is a common practice at least once a month. When fasting, they abstain from food and drink for about 24 hours and even donate the money they would have spent on meals to the church welfare system.



 

 

Fasting is a practice that has been associated with a wide array of potential health benefits, including weight loss, as well as improved blood sugar control, heart health, brain function, and cancer prevention. This is the medical aspect of it as there is also a spiritual aspect to it that involves gratitude and abstinence. Combined, they can make for a powerful and meaningful internal experience.

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