For those of you who are parents, I'm sure you have experienced times when your children ask for something that seems innocent; however, upon further examination you realize that their motives were not innocent. We have all been there, whether it is our children, an employee, a boss, or a friend; someone was asking for something that seemed fine yet their motives were not pure. Upon discovering their reasoning, you are then compelled not to grant their request. The same can be said in our relationship with God; sometimes our requests have motives that just don't match with what God wants to see in our hearts. Please look up Isaiah 58.
The first three verses of Isaiah 58 set the tone for the rest of the chapter. It seems that the children of Israel have been fasting and sending their requests to God, yet they feel as though they have not been heard. Verse 2 says, "For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them." God is showing that He has noticed their actions, but as we read on in chapter 58 we can see that God is looking beyond their fasting. He is noticing what is in their heart - God is trying to point out the problem to them so that they can come to Him without their rebellion (verse 1).
Proverbs 16:1-3 shows how God looks beyond the prayers and the fasting and inspects our hearts. I have chosen Proverbs 16:3 as one of my memory verses for this year to remind myself that it is God's plans and not my own that I need to follow. Proverbs 13:2 even shows us that we can think that we have good motives; however, God knows what is best. He knows our hearts better than we do, which is why we always need to turn to God to search out our motives. James 4:2-4 also shows how motives have an effect on how our prayers and fasting are noticed. "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives..."
Basically, when we fast, we need to spend time allowing God to search out our hearts and correct us. He loves us and He wants our motives to be pure. When we are truly pursuing God and in our hearts we are seeking to please Him, we will have pure motives.
Have you examined your heart with God?