All spiritual things can be done in a way that is worthless
There is a time and place for everything, prayer, fasting, evangelism, reading the scripture, serving, tithing…¹ If we spend hours on our knees when we know there is something else we should be doing, will God hear our prayer? If we are disobeying the Spirit’s leading, God won’t bless our effort. When God told the Israelites to enter the promise land they refused to enter. So, God told them they would not see the promise land. The Israelites decided to try and enter the promise land anyways, hoping God would crush their enemies, like he did before. But they acted outside of his will, and he did not crush their enemies. God says we can give all our money to the poor, or sacrifice our life for him, but if we are not doing it out of obedience to him (love), then our efforts are worthless. Who can give to God, unless it is first given them by God?² The only thing we can do for God, that pleases him, is what he has prepared in advance for us to do. He is the initiator of every good thing, apart from him we can do nothing.³We must follow Him, not ask him to follow us.
The above reasons are why Satan will lead men to pray for countless hours or beat their bodies, or fast, or try and believe harder for healing, prosperity, happiness.... If Satan can trick us into a legalistic, guilt driven religion, he knows our efforts will be worthless. We will be dishonoring God, by doing good things with wrong motives. Satan is effectively doing this today by first deceiving men, then using them to deceive others.⁴ Unfortunately, some of these deceptions are being taught by true believers. Jesus said beware the yeast of the pharisees, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump.⁵ Even Peter was deceived, and was deceiving others, because of pressure of the circumcision group.⁶ We shouldn’t be shocked when we see godly men and women teach or do the wrong thing. But we need not despair, God is our shepherd, guide, teacher, father, helper… If we stop trusting our own ability, but turn to God, he promised to help us.⁷
① Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 ② James 1:17 / John 3:27 / Romans 11:35 ③ James 1:17 / John 15:5 ④ 2 Timothy 3:13 ⑤ Galatians 5:9 / Matthew 16:5-12 ⑥ Galatians 2:11-14 ⑦ Hebrews 13:6
If you click on the verse reference and drag it to the pop-up, then you can scroll down on the pop-up box