PRAYER AND FASTING.

Brother Beebe, will you, or some other brother, give your views on the subject of Fasting and Prayer? When I was a child I often heard of days being set apart by the churches for that purpose. I never hear of it now, except by unbelievers. I would also like to have your opinions as to how often a church should commune. It seems to me that once or twice a year is not enough.

I am, I hope, your little sister in the precious Redeemer,
REBEKAH P. HELM.

REPLY. – Jesus, in answering some who asked him why his disciples fasted not, informed them that while the bridegroom is with the children of the bridechamber they cannot fast; but in the days when the bridegroom shall be taken away, they shall fast. – Mark ii. 19, 20. There are seasons with the saints when they enjoy the sensible presence of their heavenly Bridegroom, when they cannot refrain from feasting on heavenly food. He brings them to the banqueting house, and his banner over them is love. But when his sensible presence is withheld from them, and they in darkness mourn, then they find cause for humiliation, prayer and fasting. But even then they are forbidden to fast or pray as the hypocrites do, with ostentatious parade, appearing unto men to fast. Jesus said to his disciples, “Moreover when ye fast be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.” “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” – Matt. vi. 16-18. The Lord charged upon the carnal house of Jacob, saying, “Behold ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness,” and to make their voice to be heard on high. And he demands of them, “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? 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? 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?” – Isa. lviii. 4-7.

These instructions are too plain to need a labored explanation from us. The disciples of Jesus are forbidden to let others know of their fastings, or to even appear unto men that they fast at all. Their fastings are not to consist in afflicting their souls, by going without food which is given for the support of our natural bodies; but while in humiliation before our God, who seeth in secret, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, unbind and set free the oppressed, break every yoke, and see that we make no vain display, or let our neighbors know that we are fasting.

In regard to the proper seasons for celebrating the Supper, in which we are to show forth the Lord’s death, we are not instructed how frequently it shall be observed; it seems to be left discretionary with the church. And her appointments for the ordinance we believe to be binding on all her members who are not unavoidably prevented from being present. The command to wait one for another seems to indicate the suitable time for the ordinance to be when the church members can be generally together for that purpose; and the command, “Take and eat ye all of it,” and “Drink ye all of it,” leaves no one at liberty to be absent at the time, or, being present, to decline to eat of the bread and to drink of the cup. It is a command of Jesus, that all his disciples shall participate in this holy ordinance, and none of them are to interpose their feelings, doubts or fears as a reason for disobeying the command of our Lord.

Elder Gilbert Beebe,
Middletown, N. Y.

Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 9.
May 1, 1881.