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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

HeartsAs we continue our season of fasting together, I want to remind us of God’s purpose for us through fasting. Listen to Jesus’ words in Mark 7:15: “Nothing that goes into a person from outside can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him. If anyone has an ear to hear, he should listen!” In verses 20-23, Jesus continues to explain this mystery to His disciples by saying: “…What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, lewdness, stinginess, blasphemy, pride and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”

In our text today, the core problem of defilement is defined as what resides in the heart (things that come out), not things going into a person. Throughout Scripture, the heart refers to the center of one’s being, including the mind, emotions, and will.

As you may already know, fasting, in and of itself, is not pretty. It is uncomfortable, it is time-consuming, and, more than anything else, it is used by God to expose our flaws and failures as human beings. You will be stretched; you will be pulled; you will be challenged; at times, you will curse; at moments, you will fail at loving God and your neighbor as yourself. For fasting is meant to be an exhuming process through which God desires for us to see what He naturally sees; namely, our “unfiltered” hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). What is an “unfiltered heart”? An “unfiltered heart” is the true nature of our hearts stripped of things, such as food, that can prevent the heart’s true nature from showing (Mark 7:21-22).

Consequently, I believe one of God’s many purposes for us through our fasting is to reveal our “unfiltered” hearts to ourselves. Why? It is God’s desire for us to see our hearts as He sees them. Why? It is God’s desire for us to be freed from empty works of self-righteousness. Furthermore, He wants us to know the love that He has for us, which is not given because of us but because of Him (Ephesians 2:8-10). Therefore, as we seek God, let it be our goal to see God’s righteousness and not our own as the motive for God’s love within our lives, individually and collectively.

One of my greatest weaknesses as a disciple of Christ is to pretend and/or deny the true spiritual condition of my own heart. As we fast, please ask the Lord to reveal your heart to yourself; ask the Lord to fulfill His purpose in you, allowing you to see the true spiritual condition of your own heart. It is my hope and it is my prayer that we’ll be able to know our own hearts as God knows them already; to experience them as God experiences them; to understand them as God understands them. When we fail to acknowledge the reality of our heart’s true spiritual condition, we deny the reality of the Gospel. For sin is the chosen canvas on which the Gospel of Christ is painted (Romans 5:8) in order that God’s unconditional love will be made especially clear to us through the glorious cross of Calvary (Colossians 2:14).

As we fast today, let us be careful to guard our minds and hearts from ever seeking our own righteousness apart from God, or unjustly blaming Him for any misfortunes that may happen in our lives. Let us be diligent not to try and earn God’s favor or blessing, but earnestly to desire the reality of Christ’s presence within our lives, much like the apostle Paul: “…to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that [we] will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead” (Philippians 3:10). Let us pray and ask God to change us by nullifying our own righteousness with God’s great, immeasurable love and faithful commitment toward us through His Son, Christ Jesus (Romans 8:35-39).

James Fields
Ministry Fellow at Princeton