Today we live world where the self-centeredness is the norm and “What’s in it for me?” is the guiding relational principle. We feel entitled to all the good things in life. We act and believe that people and things exist in this world to serve us and meet our needs. This kind of thinking is the reason for so many wrecked families and relationships. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is also pervasive among Christians. Whenever we read the Bible, we gravitate towards passages containing God’s promises and blessings. We highlight them, mark and then pray them back to the Lord, demanding that He keeps His promise to bless us. We go to church or help out in ministries, we join church activities, we pray, we fast and we feel good about our religiousness. We often mistake the level of involvement and activities for the level of our own spirituality and piousness.
In Isaiah 58:1-4, God pointed out what was wrong with our acts of piousness and worship. We often do these things to please ourselves. We feel smug and satisfied with ourselves and like to give ourselves a pat on the back whenever we can tick off an item in the list of religious activities we do. We also tend to be very showy and public in order for others to see our religiousness. But God said in vv. 3b-4 “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.” God pointed out that we are doing all these things and yet it is not out of a sense of true devotion and worship. We are merely showing off and have the notion that we can keep living the way we want to because we can negate all the wrong things we are doing by these “good” things/activities. We think that by doing all these we can somehow manipulate God into granting us favors and blessing us. How foolish we are in thinking this way. How can we live the way we want to and expect Him to hear our cries? How can we ignore His commands and dishonor Him in our living and yet demand favors and blessings from Him?
God made clear what is it that He requires from us in Isaiah 58:5-14. He wants us to truly honor Him not just be doing all these activities but by being obedient to Him and honoring Him with our lives and living. True worship (which includes prayer and fasting) is and should be a way of life and not merely an activity. It should permeate into every aspect of our lives. – The way we think, the way we speak, the way we do things and the way we interact and treat other people. When worship becomes a way of life, then prayer and fasting becomes an expression of our devotion and not a self-centered activity. It becomes a matter of the heart and spirit just like what David said in Psalm 51:16-17 “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Worship (including our prayer and fasting) then becomes all about God and never about us.
Today, let us ask ourselves is there anything in our lives that keeps God from hearing our cries?
Honor God in our lives and see our relationship with Him transformed.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I (Isaiah 58:8-9)