It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive (Matt. 6:16 – 18). To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion. How easy it is to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want. At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hand.
Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained. Like the prophetess Anna, we need to be “worshiping with fasting” (Luke 2:37). Every other purpose must be subservient to God; like that apostolic band at Antioch, “fasting” and “worshiping the Lord” must be said in the same breath (Acts 13:2). C. H. Spurgeon wrote, “Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the tabernacle have been high days indeed; never has heaven’s gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central glory.”
Excerpted from Celebration of Discipline (HarperOne, 1998 — 3rd Ed.)