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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III

26- Erroneous and Rejected Fasts

 

Not every fast is acceptable, and some are rejected by God. The Bible gives us examples of some of these rejected fasts.

1. Fasting for self-praise. It intentionally revealed and exposed for others to see and praise it. About this type of fast, the Lord said in His Sermon of the Mount, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, "so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matt 6:16-18).

A fast to gain praise from others is not for God who has nothing to do with it. This it is a rejected fast.

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2. The proud Pharisee is another example of the unacceptable fast:

The Pharisee stood before God flaunting his virtues and saying: “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” At the same time, he condemns the publican saying, “I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:9-14). That is why he did not leave the temple justified, as was the case of the broken-hearted tax collector.

St-Takla.org         Image: Too much self love? Pride صورة: حب الأنا، الذات، محبة الذات، كبرياء

St-Takla.org Image: Too much self love? Pride

صورة في موقع الأنبا تكلا: حب الأنا، الذات، محبة الذات، كبرياء

This example shows us that unless fasting is accompanied with humility and a contrite heart , then it is rejected by God. For without humility fasting is out of self righteous and disdain for others. (Luke 18:9).

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3. A fast with a wrong aim is unacceptable.

An example of this fast were the Jews who banded together “and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy” (Acts 23:12,13). Naturally, their fast was a sin. Moreover, we cannot call it a spiritual fast.

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4. The sinful fasts during the days of the Prophet Jeremiah:

The Lord did not accept this fast and said to Jeremiah, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. "When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them.” (Jer 14:11,12).

The Lord did not accept their fasts, prayers, and oblation because they lived an evil life and their hearts were not pure before Him.

Thus, fasting without repentance is unacceptable.

God wants a pure heart more than He does a hungry body.

A person's fast is invalid if his heart does not abstain from sins and his tongue from evil words. Even if he gives his body to be burned, it will not profit him. (1 Cor 13:3).

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5. Fasting without mercy and charity is unacceptable:

The Lord explained this point to the Prophet Isaiah, saying: “`Why have we fasted,' they say, `and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?'

… Indeed you fast for strife and debate … Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? …Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord? “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--” (Is 58:3-7).

A fast that does not go hand in hand with merciful deeds and a pure heart is unacceptable even if performed with humility and courtesy.

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6. Fasting that is not for God is invalid:

Some may fast on doctor’s orders. Another may fast to have a graceful body and good looks, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. Both fasts are not performed for God and or spiritual gain. A third person may go on a hunger strike and not for spiritual aim or for God's sake. A fourth may forsake food in distress or despair. Non of these fasts can be considered genuine. Again, we reiterate by saying that any fast which is not for God and spiritual gain, cannot be considered a fast and is not accepted by God.

What then, is an acceptable spiritual fast for God?

It is one where a profound relationship with God is established. It is a fast where you feel God in your life. It is a sacred period, which belongs to God and devoted entirety Him. It is a time when God’s presence is very visible in your behaviour. It is a time with which your relationship with God increases and grows in a spiritual exultation which makes you long to stretch your fast and become endless.

This leads us to examine an important question:

What is the relationship between God and your fast?

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