The Right Kind of Fasting? Unfortunate False Fasting 

GYC Part 4b


Jeremiah 14:11-12 (NKJV) 11 “Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. 12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them.”

“There are times before us that will try the souls of men, and there will be need of … the right kind of fasting.” ST July 14, 1898, par. 5

Unfortunately there are also false forms of fasting.

Unfortunate False Fasts

Pharisaic Legalistic Forms To Gain Merit With God and the People

“[The Pharisees] seasons of fasting were occasions of outward ceremony. They did not humble their hearts before God. They were filled with bitterness, envy, malice, strife, selfishness, and self-righteousness. While their heads were bowed in pretended humiliation, they were covetous, full of self-esteem, self-importance. They were oppressive, exacting, proud in spirit." {ST July 14, 1898, par. 5}

Copying Others (Like the disciples of John)

“The disciples of John had not a clear understanding of Christ’s work; they thought there might be some foundation for the charges of the Pharisees. They observed many of the rules prescribed by the rabbis, and even hoped to be justified by the works of the law. Fasting was practiced by the Jews as an act of merit, and the most rigid among them fasted two days in every week. The Pharisees and John’s disciples were fasting when the latter came to Jesus with the inquiry, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but Thy disciples fast not?” {DA 276.4}

Papal Confession and Penance

“Instead of teaching the people to look to Christ alone for pardon through faith in his merits, the priests professedly grant it to them through penitential works. Fasting and mortification of the flesh is enjoined, while the inward work, the regeneration of the heart, which constitutes true conversion, is deemed unnecessary. It is easier to the natural heart to confess and do penance than to put away sin; therefore there are few who do not choose to gratify unholy passions at the expense of a little confession and penance.” {RH June 1, 1886, par. 11}

“The conditions of obtaining mercy from God are simple and reasonable. The Lord does not require us to do some grievous thing in order to gain forgiveness. We need not make long and wearisome pilgrimages, or perform painful penances, to commend our souls to the God of heaven or to expiate our transgression. He that “confesseth and forsaketh” his sin “shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13. {AA 552.1}

National Fasts (In this case the Civil War.)

“A great share of the volunteers enlisted fully believing that the result of the war would be to abolish slavery. Others enlisted intending to be very careful to keep slavery just as it is, but to put down the rebellion and preserve the Union. And then to make the matter still more perplexing and uncertain, some of the officers in command are strong proslavery men whose sympathies are all with the South, yet who are opposed to a separate government. It seems impossible to have the war conducted successfully, for many in our own ranks are continually working to favor the South, and our armies have been repulsed and unmercifully slaughtered on account of the management of these proslavery men. Some of our leading men in Congress also are constantly working to favor the South. In this state of things, proclamations are issued for national fasts, for prayer that God will bring this war to a speedy and favorable termination. I was then directed to Isaiah 58:5-7: “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? ... I saw that these national fasts were an insult to Jehovah. He accepts of no such fasts. The recording angel writes in regard to them: “Ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness.” {1T 257.1}

Self-justifying Fasts

“When fastings and prayers are practiced in a self-justifying spirit, they are abominable to God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposed sacrifice,—all proclaim to the world the testimony that the doer of these things considers himself righteous. These things call attention to the observer of rigorous duties, saying, This man is entitled to heaven. But it is all a deception.” {1888 1226.2}

Fasts That Ignore False Ideas and Selfish Practices

“As a church let every instrumentality be sanctified, working decidedly as God has spoken to them in Isaiah, fifty-eighth chapter. There is something to do in setting things in order, something to do beside fasting and praying. Were Christ Jesus in person to address us, He would prescribe just such a work to be done as is found in this chapter as described by Isaiah. The health of our institutions demand a revolution in principles which are now buried up under the rubbish of false ideas and selfish principles that have no connection with God.” {Lt 52, 1891, par. 35}

Fasts Without a Purpose

“Fastings and vigils, without a special object in view, are time run to waste. They are made to minister to a sort of self-gratification, instead of being turned to account for the good of others.”—David Livingstone (Missionary in Africa)

Imposed Fasts

“It is true there are persons with ill-balanced minds who imagine themselves to be very religious and who impose upon themselves fasting and prayer to the injury of their health. These souls [are] deceived. God has not required this of them. They have a pharisaical righteousness, which springs, not from Christ, but from themselves.” {3T 172.2}

Imbalanced Food Fasts (In this case Joseph Bates)

“I have been informed that you have taken but one meal a day for a period of time; but I know it to be wrong in your case, for I have been shown that you needed a nutritious diet, and that you were in danger of being too abstemious. Your strength would not admit of your severe discipline. {Lt 2, 1872, par. 1} God loves you. But you will with your advanced age, and your strong peculiarities certainly mar the work of God more than you can help it. {Lt2-1872.} ... I think that you have erred in fasting two days. God did not require it of you. I beg of you to be cautious and eat freely [of] good wholesome food twice a day. You will surely decrease in strength and your mind become unbalanced unless you change your course of abstemious diet.” {Lt2-1872.}

A Self-Imposed 40 Day Fast

“All the fasting in the world will not take the place of simple trust in the Word of God. “Ask,” He says, “and ye shall receive.” [John 16:24.] {Lt206-1908.7} … You are not called upon to fast forty days. The Lord bore that fast for you in the wilderness of temptation. There would be no virtue in such a fast; but there is virtue in the blood of Christ. Will you not believe that there is power in His sacrifice to purify and refine you, power in His grace to make you a laborer together with God?” {Lt206-1908.13} [Charles Hirschmiller of South Lancaster, MA]


All Quotations come from the writings of Mrs. Ellen G. White.

The Study Guide was created for the 2022 GYC Conference in Phoenix,  AZ, by Dan Augsburger of Path2Prayer Ministries.

GCY Pt 4b