Fasting is NOT supposed to be just another religious routine. Your fast should be passionate and from your heart.

In Isaiah 58, God came down hard on people who weren’t fasting from their heart. Their form of fasting was a routine, outward display to show everyone how religious they were. Here’s what God told them:

“[The facts are that] you only fast for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high. Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?” Isaiah 58:4-5 (AMP)

God saw right through the people in Isaiah’s day, and He sees right through us as well. He sees whether our fasting is routine and passionless or from the heart.

Here are three things in these verses that God says to watch out for when you fast:

  1. You are not opening your heart for God’s cleansing. God called out the people in Isaiah’s day for arguing and hurting each other out of wickedness. Fasting should include examining your life to see if there are actions or attitudes that need to be changed. As you fast and pray, ask God to reveal any areas of your life that need cleansing.
  2. Your fasting is routine and passionless. Do you remember the mechanical bulls that became popular in the 1980s? Even though they could be engineered to imitate nearly all the moves of a real bucking bull, they were only mechanical. They may go through the motions, but they’re not the real deal. God is looking for the real deal! God wasn’t pleased when the Israelites fasted mechanically and He won’t be pleased when we fast mechanically. During your fast, don’t just go through the motions, but seek the presence of God with passion.
  3. You are fasting to impress people. The word “bulrush” in this passage refers to a tall, grassy reed that grew along rivers. It was hollow on the inside so it would easily bow down with its own weight, like someone bowing down in hollow humility. God sees your heart and He wants your fasting to come from a place of humility and brokenness, not to make yourself look like something that you aren’t to impress people around you. Remember that people see what happens on the outside, but God sees your heart.

It can be easy to cruise through life in a dull routine, even when you’re fasting. If you’re just going through the routine motions of your fast, it’s time to break the routine. That’s what fasting from the heart does. It interrupts your routine so that you focus on God and can hear His heart. Don’t waste your fast by just going through the motions. Instead, make it the real deal by passionately opening your heart to God so that you can hear His voice leading you where He wants you to go.