10 Things to Avoid When Fasting and Praying

If you have decided to take on the historic, spiritual discipline of Christianity, fasting and prayer, then you’re just one step away from  deepening your relationship with God. However, there are some natural rules but we will focus mainly on some of the things to avoid. Of course, as with the tradition of Saythisprayer.org, there are Biblical references that will guide us through.

Now, you do remember the story of the Israelites in the wilderness, don’t you? They were called to trust and obey God, and in the same vein, you have decided to surrender and seek His face. But, just as they faced temptations, pitfalls, etc., we have to be aware of the dangers that can hinder our progress.

In Isaiah 58:3-4, God says:

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 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.

Now, we will learn from their mistakes and avoid the pitfalls. Of course, we want our fasting and prayer to work.

Things to Avoid When Fasting and Praying

Some of these things are just instinctive but we still need a reminder, don’t we? Here are really important things you need to avoid right now.

1. Hypocrisy (Matthew 6:16-18)

Didn’t Jesus criticize the Pharisees for their hypocritical fasting? He even said they were like “whitewashed tombs” – clean on the outside but full of dead men’s bones on the inside (Matthew 23:27).

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Your fasting and prayer should be with a sincere heart, not to impress anyone. Try to avoid spiritual pretense. Don’t even do it for recognition. Today, you’d see people making the following fasting mistakes:

  • Posting about fasting and prayer on social media to get likes and comments
  • Telling others about fasting and prayer to get their admiration
  • Acting spiritual or pious to impress others

Instead, we should focus on our personal relationship with God at this moment. Right now, His approval is the only thing that matters.

2. Complaining and murmuring (Numbers 11:1-35)

And “the people complained and murmured, and the Lord heard it. He was angry, and fire burned among them, consuming some of the outskirts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1-35). See? Indeed, fasting isn’t merrier moments that please the flesh but it pleases the soul. Forget your flesh at this point because you don’t want it to hinder your grateful heart. Don’t complain and murmur. We should avoid grumbling about our circumstances or the difficulties during our fasting and prayer period.

Remember that the Israelites complained and murmured in the wilderness. What was God’s response? He sent fire to consume them. Let’s focus on our blessings and goodness of the Lord, and watch how closer we’ll get to Him.

3. Lack of preparation (Esther 4:16-17)

Let’s read what it says in Esther 4:16-17:

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do.

If you notice, the instructions arrived before the fasting, enough time to be in preparation. And we can see the word ‘gather’ which points to part of the preparations.

Before you fast and pray, be prepared, both physically and spiritually. We should avoid:

  • Starting a fast without preparing our bodies and minds
  • Not having intentions for our fasting and prayer
  • Not seeking guidance from spiritual leaders

Instead, prepare yourself by:

  • Gradually reducing your food intake before the fast
  • Talking with your spiritual leaders about your decision

4. Unrealistic expectations (Matthew 6:33)

It’s true that during fasting and prayers, one can easily fall into the trap of expecting immediate answers. It doesn’t work this way. Miraculous solutions will happen but we have to keep our expectations in check.

Many of us often think that if we fast and pray long enough, God will surely answer our prayers in the exact same way we want. However, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus taught us to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, and not to worry about what we will eat or drink.

If we look at the apostle Paul’s reminder in Isaiah 55:8-9, we see that God’s ways are not our ways, and that His thoughts are higher than ours.

Remember that prophet Daniel fasted and prayed for 21 days for the Israelites. However, it wasn’t until the 24th day that God’s angel appeared to him with an explanation that God had heard his prayer from the very beginning, but that there was a spiritual battle going on that delayed the answer. Want to see for yourself? Go to Daniel 10:1-14.

You can fast for a job promotion, but God may have other plans. The answer to your prayer can come in a different way or at a different time.

5. Comparison with others (2 Corinthians 10:12)

Note that fasting and prayer are personal experiences, and we should not compare ourselves with others. However, it’s easy to get trapped comparing our spiritual disciplines with those of others. You might think that you are more spiritual because you fast and pray more frequently for a long time. Unfortunately, this can only cause pride and a sense of self-righteousness that affect your relationship with God.

As an example, the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (Luke 18:11-12). However, Jesus said that the tax collector, who prayed, “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” was the one who went home justified before God (Luke 18:13-14).

6. Neglecting physical health (Isaiah 58:3-5)

We started this fasting guide with Isaiah 58:3-5, remember? Let’s quote it again:

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.

While you should fast and pray to honor God, you should also take care of your physical body. Avoid:

  • Neglecting your well-being during fasting and prayer
  • Ignoring the needs of our bodies, such as hydration and rest
  • Pushing ourselves too hard, or you could become exhausted and burn out

Instead, take care of your physical body, drink plenty of water, get enough rest and sleep, listen to your body, and go on breaks when necessary.

7. Pride and self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Jesus said the tax collector, who prayed “God have mercy on me, a sinner,” was the one who went home justified before God (Luke 18:14).

We should avoid thinking:

  • We are better than others because of our fasting and prayer
  • Our fasting and prayer make us more righteous than others
  • We are more spiritual than others because of our fasting and prayer

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” This is the perfect response that fasting and praying should have nothing to do with comparing yourself with others. Be humble. Never think that others are less righteous than you are.

8. Lack of consistency (Daniel 6:10)

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Fasting and prayer require consistency—we have to persevere, and avoid:

  • Starting a fast or prayer routine and then giving up easily
  • Being inconsistent in our fasting and prayer, only doing it when we feel like it
  • Not making fasting and prayer a regular part of our spiritual practice

Instead, make fasting and prayer a regular part of your spiritual routine, and set aside time each day for it. Make a commitment to continue fasting and prayer even though, we know, it gets difficult. And as part of these tips, seek accountability from others to help your consistency.

9. Distractions (Matthew 6:6)

The least things like your surroundings, thoughts, and emotions can distract you from fasting. Some people have repeatedly found themselves worrying about their to-do list, problems, or feeling emotional about circumstances.

The good news is that Jesus taught us to go into our inner room, shut the door, and pray to our Father who is in secret (Matthew 6:6). This means finding a quiet and private place to pray, free from distractions, where we can focus on God and our relationship with Him.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16), and He taught His disciples to do the same (Matthew 6:6).

You can try to pray while watching TV, scrolling through your phone, or doing chores, but your mind will quickly wander away. The outcome is that you will have a divided focus. This is why you need a very quiet and private place to pray. Just anything and anywhere to set you free from distractions is what you need right now.

10. Vain repetition (Matthew 6:7-8)

You don’t have to repeat prayers many times for God to hear and answer you. Besides, Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:8 that God knows our needs before we even ask, and that we should not use vain repetitions like the pagans do (Matthew 6:7).

Instead, try to pray with simplicity, sincerity, and faith. Yes, God hears and will answer your prayers in His time.

If we refer to the Bible, you’ll see that the Gentiles would repeat their prayers over and over, thinking that God would hear them because of their many words. Right now, simplicity and sincerity are what matters. An example is theLord’s Prayer.

Here we go with those hindering things we need to avoid during fasting and prayers. It’s going to be a tough work on the flesh but be rest assured that it is an act that pleases the soul and brings us a lot closer to God. If you have made up your mind to start this journey, don’t forget to prepare your body and soul. We have talked about this and many more in this guide, and hope that God guides us as we strive to strengthen our relationship with Him. Amen!

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