Fasting is an awesome gift. And like all gifts, it can be misconstrued, misused, and abused. We run the risk of ending up bitterly disappointed, not to mention very, very hungry. Now that we know what fasting is and why we fast, let’s consider what fasting is not and why we so often fail to practice this spiritual discipline. Here are five myths about fasting:
1. God Owes You When You Fast
Fasting is not a manipulation tactic or a way to earn God’s favor. Fasting doesn’t make you more holy or acceptable to God, Jesus alone did that. Fasting and other spiritual disciplines are a response to the love we already have from God, not an attempt to get that love. Spiritual disciplines are us living out our genuine dependence on God, trusting him and his provision for our needs and struggles, and living out our obedience to him knowing that this brings him the greatest glory and us our greatest joy.
2. Fasting Makes You a Spiritual Rock Star
Fasting is not an endurance test and, like anything else, can be done in pride for the praise of men. Beware: self-righteousness in fasting is a signpost that you’re doing it wrong. Clarifying the purpose of your fast will help avoid the ego-trip that can so easily seduce us when we’re doing something difficult for God. Jesus warned us not to make our fasting a public service announcement in order to get attention. If you’re tempted smug about your fasting, try remembering that even the ability to fast is yours by grace alone and without Jesus you couldn’t even do that.
3. Fasting is Required, So Get it Done
Fasting is not some religious formality to check off the list. Some believers, out of a feeling of duty, will occasionally fast but their sacrifice becomes just another religious thing they do, and so it falls far, far short of what God intended it to be for his people.
4. God’s More Likely to Answer My Prayers
Fasting doesn’t force God to be more attentive or give us quicker answers. We don’t tell God, “We’re fasting now. That’s our part; now you do your part” (Isaiah 58). No matter what we do, God will accomplish his holy will. Fasting is our response to God, our pressing into him like it says in Joel 2:13, “Rend your hearts and not your garments.” Fasting is one way that we express our surrender and honest petition before our holy God––yet his will, not ours be done.
5. Fasting Brings You Favor With God
Finally, be careful to differentiate between aligning your heart with God (what fasting does) and gaining favor with God (what fasting does not). Jesus alone gives you favor with God, and it is he alone who bring you spotless, into God’s presence.
Preparing For our Church-Wide Fast
As you continue to pray about and plan for our corporate fast together Monday, January 4 – Friday, January 8, integrate the ideas from this post into your plan. If you’ve never fasted before, be courageous, give it a go, and expect great fruit to come from it, even if not always right away. Fasting is a discipline that takes time to cultivate. Fasting is an act of faith, and faith pleases God and brings glory to him.