Christians And Prayer & Fasting

Text: Matthew 6: 5-8

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they
love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that
they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut
thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in
secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they
think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things
ye have need of, before ye ask him.


Prayer can become formalised like some hasty recitation or incantation. Like our grace before meals which we often rush through without any genuine welling-up of sincere gratitude for our food. A person may praying such a way that his prayer is not really addressed to God, but to the people around him. Prayer may simply be a demonstration of one's excequ piety in such a way that people can't fail to see it. Jesus laid down 2 great rules for prayer.

  1. Pray to God, not to men.

  2. He insists we remember that God is a God of love.

He is more ready to answer our prayers than we are to pray. His gifts and His grace are not unwillingly extracted from Him. We do not pray to One who must be coaxed or pestered into answering our prayers. We come to One whose nature and whole desire is to giveA person may also fast not really for the good of his own soul or to humble himselfin the sight of God, but simply to show the world what a selfdisciplined character he is. People may fast as a sign of superior piety, tn prove to men, not God how devoted and disciplined the faster was, orto be admired and praised by men. These are the things Jesus condemned.

Barclay says: Many Pharisees fasted on market days when Jerusalem would be more than full of people than usual; emphasising by their appearance that they were fasting. Note it's possible for us to practise good works simply to win praise from others, to increase our own importance and to show everyone how good we are. People who do good things to be seen are using the wrong motives and they have received their reward, but not in heaven. The Greek word used for 'to be seen' is the same word used for Theatre. In other words to show off, or just an act. William Barclay says “Our giving must never be the grim and selfrighteous outcome of a sense of duty; neither must it be done to enhance our own glory and prestige among men. It must be the instinctive outflow of the loving heart.

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