Home / OPINION / Nigerian Fast, Heresy, and Common Sense, By Leonard Karshima Shilgba
Prof Shilgba, acting President, ADUN

Nigerian Fast, Heresy, and Common Sense, By Leonard Karshima Shilgba

“Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression…Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: They ask of me ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. ‘Why have we fasted’, they ask God, ‘and you don’t take notice?’”
Quite often “fasting and prayers” are “declared” in Nigeria when the overly religious “feel” that they are endangered by something or some things. I have observed that it is difficult to connect such exercises of “fasting” to verifiable positive results, whether spiritual or physical. Yet, the “church”, “mosque” and various levels of government indulge in such banalities. Why do I call those exercises banal? It is because there is nothing fresh or refreshing about them; they are wholly predictable, and achieve nothing good. Furthermore, those who indulge in those exercises understand “fasting” to mean simply abstinence from food and water for a period of time. The food they would not give to the hungry remains in their food stores while they “fast”. Then they continue to feed fat without kindness to the poor, or compassion on the needy. They wonder why their “fasting and prayers” don’t fetch the desired results.
“Fasting and prayers” are also taken by Nigeria’s ignorantly religious to be substitutes for obedience, patriotic deeds, or principled living. It is simplistic to ignore your necessary duty to society, and then think that you can “pray” and “fast” your way out of the consequences. Negligence of government responsibilities is often shrouded by “prayer and fasting”. Besides, there have been reports of governments in Nigeria spending public funds on “prayer and fasting”. I believe that “prayer and fasting” have assumed the intolerable level of heresy; in fact, the irresponsibly religious do mock God with “prayer and fasting” while they refuse to change their ways. But scripturally correct fasting avails much for individuals and nations. What is true scriptural fasting, which can lead to even exorcism of otherwise stubborn demons that terrorise individuals and society?
More than 3,000 years ago, the nation of Israel would call for abstinence from food and water, which they called “fasting”, but without the desired results. Then they asked why God did not take notice:
Their “fasting” was fruitless because it was accompanied by strife, pleasurable living without consideration for the poor and needy, and wickedness. God told them, “You shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.” God then mocked their kind of fasting: “Is this the fast that I have chosen? A day for man to afflict his soul? (or, To afflict his soul for a day?) Is it to bow your head like a bulrush (reed), and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?”
Godly fasting is not what the religious in Nigeria often do. Some poor folks abstain from food and water to the risk of their health, and yet they get no fruits. What then is godly fasting? Here is God’s Word on the subject:
“Is this not 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 you break every yoke? Is it not to give your food to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you give him clothing; and that you don’t hide from your relatives in the time of their need?”
Simply put, godly fasting is self-deprivation for the good of others, justice, mercy, and faithfulness—It is taking the cross daily on behalf of others within your divine endowment.
The result of godly fasting is simply phenomenal: The LORD says that when you engage in godly fasting, “Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you; and the glory of the LORD shall gather you up. Then shall you call (pray), and the LORD shall answer; and you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am…Then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. And the LORD shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones, and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of you (your children) shall build the old waste places: You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in…Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.” [Read Isaiah 58: 1-14; Zechariah 7: 5-14] About two years ago, my State government announced that it was organizing “prayer and fasting”. I wrote and warned against this, and advised on what I have said in this essay. I warned that should they go ahead with the “prayer and fasting” (which I considered a mockery of God) the security condition in the State would worsen. Some people misunderstood me. They went ahead with the “fast”, and “handed the State over to God”. If a State that has been “handed over to God” would experience the throes in which Benue State is now, then it is not advisable to “hand over a State to God”. When wickedness against neighbours is not repented of, and the wicked embark on “prayer and fasting”, the most certain outcome would be shame and a worsening of the status quo.

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