There is one pitfall of prayer and fasting that we all need to guard ourselves against: too much focus on ourselves and our long prayer lists, storming the heavens for things we want and things we desire, giving God a continuous barrage of prayer “requests,” all the while forgetting to really commune with Jesus.
We do not fast to get God to do things for us. He already did much on the cross. That iPhone or house or car are probably necessary. That relationship is probably as important. So is that promotion. But God is not an ATM terminal or our rich uncle who buys stuff for us.
We do not fast just for the breakthrough. He is not a God who accepts our requisition slips, signs them and lovingly sends us to encash our blessings. We do not fast so He will hear us. He knows what we need even before we pray. He can answer our prayers in June or October.
We do not fast so He will know what we want.
We fast so we will know WHAT HE WANTS, to know His will, to know His plan. We fast to get a feel of the heartbeat of God, to synchronize our heartbeat with His heartbeat. We fast so we will get a sense of what it is to desire the things God desires.
In other words, at the center of prayer and fasting is the person of Jesus. Anything less than Him is needless hungering. Fasting should lead us to the cross of Jesus, to repentance, to a greater appreciation of the grace and providence of God. Fasting should lead us to the presence of God, to the temple courts of heaven where we meet with Jesus.
When Moses fasted for forty days, his face literally shone with a physical reflection of the glory of God. He didn’t go up to the mountain of God to talk about his need of a bigger and shinier walking stick and promotion and bigger money to finance the wandering Israelites. He went up there to seek God because his leadership was being stretched. He went up there because he needed to receive word from God. He did receive what he needed: the Ten Commandments.
Paul Wilbur, one of the foremost Jewish worship leaders, had a song that so powerfully summarizes the heart of fasting:
We do not seek your hand, we only seek your face;
We want to know you;
We want to see you reveal your glory in this place.
Moses had the same prayer: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). More than the blessings, we need to desire the presence of Christ in our lives.