Patriarchial Letter on Prayer and Fasting
HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div LOM
You are invited: To fast with the Patriarch and Presiding Prelate on Fridays for the work of Evangelisation
My dear Clergy, ministers, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Since I assumed the office of Patriarch and Presiding Prelate of The Mystical Order, I have shared with you my vision for the Ministry and for our people. I have spoken many times on the urgency of the Age of Evangelization, which is a call to all Christians to renew their faith and to share the Good News about Jesus Christ with ardour, as visible witnesses of His love, in every sphere of society, working in communion and using approaches that are relevant. Together, we must put a halt to hostile secularism (which is against religion) and the development of an individualistic, materialistic and relativistic society. These dismantle the foundation of society (i.e. the institutions of marriage and family) by disregarding the universal values of human rights that are based on truth and love. The key to counter these onslaughts is to proclaim the Good News about Jesus, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life. Christians need to be re-evangelised so that they can share the Good News of truth and love joyfully with those who do not know Christ. This does not mean that we are out to convert everyone but through the sharing of our faith and good works, we want to offer Jesus as a gift to humanity, so that all can find hope, direction, meaning and purpose in life.
But the Age of Evangelization is not merely just work and less still, human projects. We must not be under the illusion that everything can be achieved by our own pastoral planning and efforts. We must not forget the primacy of grace. Prayer is our concrete expression in the primacy of grace so that all success and glory will be given to God and not to us. Devout and fervent intercessory prayer (both individual and communal) is the key to the Age of Evangelization and is therefore absolutely necessary. The church and all Christians ought to be in prayer daily making all petitions and applications unto the LORD OUR God. It is needed for the conversion of hearts, beginning with ourselves first, and then others. Prayer is a powerful weapon against the temptations of the Evil One. Intense prayer also opens us to receive God’s love, mercy and truth. Life changes when we are enlightened and see everything from the perspective of Christ. Hence, in view of the urgency of the Age of Evangelization in combating the evils of today, I have exhorted all Christians to pray daily – for me, my fellow ministers and all Religious leaders, Government and those in authority. In addition, I will be issuing a ministerial letter inviting all those working in Christian Organizations to make time to pray at work and in the office, using either the Lunch Hours or to undertake faith-sharing based on the scriptures. In my online ministry http://www.mysticalorderinc.org, I continue to encourage my brothers and sisters to serve in the work of ministry wherein you are called, I have also reminded Church ministries not to be too function-orientated. Members and fellow readers should not only be present to fulfil service duties but also to pray as a community and in small groups regularly (daily or weekly).
Building on these, I wish to go a step further and be as daring as Abraham when he interceded to God for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-32). I would like to invite you to fast with me, for the success of the Age of Evangelization for the Caribbean Islands, especially St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the rise of covid-19 infections and the threat of the effusive eruptions of the volcano. Effective prayer must be accompanied by fasting. We learn this from Jesus, our model in evangelization, by observing how He prepared for His ministry – He entered the desert and fasted for forty days. Following this, He, “filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee” (Luke 4:14). Indeed, the power of Jesus to preach and to heal came from the anointing of the Holy Spirit which is given through prayer and fasting. He also told the disciples who were not able to cure the epileptic boy, “this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Prayer and fasting is hence not an option for Christians, for Jesus said, “When you pray … and when you fast …” (Matthew 6:5, 16) and not “if you want to pray or fast”. For this reason, in the early Church, the apostles and the early Christians continued to pray and fast for the success of their mission. “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Act 13:2, 3). Fasting and prayer remove the obstacles to our mission, especially those influenced by the Evil One and give answers to our prayers. We see this call to fasting being observed by the saints and especially the Blessed Saints and apostles, in all their apparitions where they urge us to pray and fast for conversion.
What are the benefits of fasting?
- Fasting is good for the soul and body.
- It keeps us disciplined, especially with regard to our sensual needs and the temptations of the flesh.
- It frees us from sin and keeps us pure in our relationship with God and our fellowmen.
- It opens us to the grace of the Holy Spirit because it increases the desire in us for God.
- It provides the disposition for prayer and helps us to feel God’s presence throughout the day as we recall His love and mercy for us through Christ’s passion on the cross.
By contemplating on the Lord’s suffering and uniting ours with His, we can better identify with those who suffer through illness or injustice. This moves us to compassion and generosity. Fasting also enables us to listen more attentively and to be more docile in obedience to the Word of God. Thus, based on God’s holy will, we begin to discern better our direction in life. Only when we are weak, can we become strong in the Lord, so that He can accomplish His will in us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Fasting is, therefore, the soul of prayer and the answer to our prayers because it shows our sincerity in asking for what we want from the Lord. To a minister who complained about the indifference of the people in his congregation. I say to you, you’ve preached, you have prayed but have you ever taken the time to fast?
In order to ensure that our motive is focused, we will pray weekly, for a particular intention of the Mystical Order and Starlight of Israel, pertaining to the work of the Age of Evangelization. This will be published on our website http://www.mysticalorderinc.org. However, we must be careful not to allow fasting to be reduced to a routine or worse still, to be done for less noble motives like losing weight, saving money, or to lead us to spiritual pride and self-righteousness. Indeed, if fasting does not make us more humble and more charitable towards our fellowmen, we can be sure we are not fasting the way that the Lord is asking of us. In the final analysis, fasting bears no fruits unless it is watered by mercy and charity.
Indeed, Isaiah 58:4-9 tells us that God is not pleased with ritualistic fasting that does not bear fruit in charity for our neighbour. Such fasting will not make our prayers heard.
“4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? 6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. 9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;”
Fasting, therefore, is only a means to an end. We must not reduce our fasting to a mere ritual or even a human discipline. Fasting from food should open our hearts to God and move us to conversion. More importantly, we are called to fast from our sins – especially the capital sins of pride and arrogance, envy and jealousy, anger and unforgiveness, sloth and irresponsibility, gluttony and the destruction of one’s body and soul through lust, pornography, greed and hoarding.
How and when are we to fast? I would like to propose a corporate fast on bread and water every Friday. You can also choose to observe a Mystical fast (two half meals and one full meal at the break of your fast) or even a full fast if your health is not compromised. For those who are unable to observe it on Friday, you may wish to substitute it with another weekday. However, it would be better to fast and pray on the designated Friday, in solidarity with the whole Mystical Order and Starlight of Israel. Fasting together is also easier as we are weak and fall easily into laxity, indulgence and sin. Hence if we fast together, we can encourage and support each other. Sundays, Christmas, Easter and special celebrations are exempted, for we recognise the need to rejoice in these celebrations as Jesus instructed – that as long as the bridegroom is with us, we do not fast. (Matthew 9:15)
What can we do on the day of the fast? You may use your lunch or dinner time to have individual prayer and adoration or participate in the celebration of breaking of bread. Pray together in the office or at home and share the Bread of Life (the Word of God). The physical hunger will be made much easier when accompanied by a Christian fellowship of love and a prayerful sharing of the Word of God. When we are physically hungry, let us fill ourselves with divine food in the form of the breaking of bread and the scriptures, together in Christian fellowship.
As I conclude, I urge all of you – ministers, brothers, sisters and the congregations – to fast with me at least once a week, on Friday, in the spirit of the Gospel. Let us invite our family, friends and colleagues to join us in prayer and fasting, constantly encouraging and reminding one another not only of the day of fasting but more importantly, the reason behind our commitment. When we start praying and fasting, we will see the anointing of the Lord in all we do. The Lord will unleash His power in us through the Holy Spirit and marvellous blessings will be given to all. We will see conversions taking place, change of hearts and minds, peace and joy, unity and love at home, in the office and in our communities. We will become a joyful people and indeed bring the Gospel of Joy to all we meet. As the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, the sacrifices we make move beyond this life to our children and future generations as we leave a legacy in kingdom building for The Mystical Order throughout the world. Let us, therefore, contribute to the work of the Age of Evangelisation for The Mystical Order through our commitment to prayer and fasting. With faith in the power of God and through the intercession of the Holy Spirit we can build a vibrant Church of The Mystical Order!
Your servant in the Lord,