Did you know that fasting is connected to answered prayer? Have you wondered why some people's prayers get answered and others don’t. There is a scripture in James 4:3 that says,
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (New Living Translation)
This scripture has caused me to search my motives many times and left me wondering “what exactly is the right way to ask?” Last night a couple of friends and I were discussing Isaiah 58 and I believe it revealed the answer to that question. Watch the YouTube teaching I recorded on this and follow along with the notes that I have added throughout the scripture below.
I chose the New Living Translation because I felt that it made it easier to understand, but you can choose another if you prefer. I’ve also added emphasis to some words.
Isaiah 58:1-9 New Living Translation (NLT)
True and False Worship
58 “Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel[a] of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
(The Lord knows when our faith is superficial. We must be careful not to act pious on the outside and be corrupt on the inside.)
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
(We only deceive ourselves in believing that we can manipulate God.)
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
(Our fast means nothing if we are unkind and uncharitable towards those that work for us or alongside us.)
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
(Peace, kindness, respect, forgiveness and love are more important to God than depriving ourselves of food. He wound rather us fast from chaos, anger, disrespect, gossip, holding grudges, unforgiveness, and hate.)
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
(A humble soul that worships with a pure heart is what pleases the Lord. Someone who does penance out of true love and with a sincere desire to detach themselves from the pleasures of the world that hinder holiness.)
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
(We may not know someone in an actual prison but we do know those that are imprisoned by fear, neglect, wrong thinking, overwhelming situations, grief, pain, etc. The Lord wants us to help free them by walking alongside them, encouraging them, building them up, offering them a hand to grasp and loving them.)
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
(We must be careful and attentive to how we treat those who work for us and with us. We must not over burden them. We must be kind, fair and respectful.)
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
(Help those that are abused, persecuted, and unjustly accused by not only praying for them but by some form of action to help them get free.)
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
(This doesn’t only mean physically but also spiritually. We are to feed the hungry with food for their bellies but also feed them with the spiritual food of God’s Word and the Bread of Life.
We can help shelter the homeless literally but we are also to give those that do not have a church community, one.
We are called to clothe those that are naked physically but also clothe the spiritually naked with righteousness.)
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
(Whoa! Don’t hide from those that need you.)
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
The Lord now leans towards us and says, "Here I am. What do you need, child." Our love has caught His attention and He wants nothing more than to please us.
Now, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Fasting from physical food is good when it's done with the right motives. Our physical hunger is supposed to remind us of our spiritual hunger and lead us to call on God for help, and that 's beautiful. So before we proclaim a fast let's search our hearts and be honest with ourselves and God as to why we're doing it.
I pray this has broadened your understanding of fasting.
Let us pray.
Feasting on His goodness,