Summary: Jesus taught us how to pray through the Lord’s prayer, a template for how to address Him and bring our needs before Him. He also taught us how to fast and spend special time with God.
In my last post, I taught part 1 on prayer and fasting from the Sermon on the Mount. In this post, I want to finish talking about prayer and fasting the way Jesus did.
I have written extensively on the subjects of prayer and fasting. You may especially like an earlier post in this Conformed to Christ spiritual formation category on Praying the Lord’s Prayer. I want to approach this post differently.
Prayer and fasting are not a uniquely or exclusively Christian practice. Most people of any kind of religion pray, and many of them fast. But they pray and fast for different reasons. I want to highlight our attitude and purpose in prayer and fasting.
What are our motives for praying and fasting? Do we pray to look spiritual, to get things from God, or to try to control Him? Do we fast to get God’s attention, force His will, or look more pious? Is all fasting spiritually beneficial? In part 1 I wrote about praying in secret and wordy prayers. These talk about our attitude and approach in prayer. Now I will sum up the Lord’s Prayer and fasting. Let’s get started.
Focuses of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
Jesus teaches us to pray by setting up a “model” prayer. We call it “The Lord’s Prayer,” but Jesus is giving us a template, not praying for us. That happens in John 17. He is showing us how to pray, not praying. If we see His template, we will see how to pray, not what to pray. Of course, no one is hurt by praying the same words as Jesus.
But, look at it as a template, and you will see how and what to pray for. I have written on the Lord’s Prayer and other posts as I mentioned above. Here, I want to show the attitude and template of Jesus’s teaching on prayer for us.
Can we begin our prayer with the proper focus and understanding of God’s Person, place, and power Who is God to us? He is a relational God, our Father. A father provides for His children, listens to them, answers them, protects them, and so much more. We don’t see God as a far-off God who does not listen. He cares for us. He wants to relate to us.
Second, we must recognize God’s place. He is in heaven. He is over all creation, outside of creation and time. He has ultimate power and can do anything. When we pray to Him, we can know He will respond and answer our prayer. Nothing is beyond His reach. He cannot be willing to do what we ask the powerless to do it. He is the King of the Universe, and everything bows to Him.
Many Christians have no idea what “hallowed” means. It helps us to realize this word and its depth. It means God’s name is holy, unlike any other name. We do not wave it around profanely. We honor His name and Person, His reputation, holding His name in high regard. We are careful to use it. It’s a precious gift to us. We have the privilege of using His name and seeing His power.
In Acts, the seven sons of Sceva used Jesus’s name to cast out demons (Acts 19:13-17). But they had no power behind it. They were using His name like an incantation. There was no relationship behind it. So, there was no power to cast out the demon. The demon responded by beating them and ripping their clothes off. The power is in Jesus’s name, but because of our relationship with Him, it is a powerful name we can speak and see great things happen.
As long as we keep His name holy, separate from all the other things we hold dear and use with power, we will always see Him respond to His name in powerful ways. We must keep Jesus separate from the other things in our lives. We must behold His name and power above every other name. We must treat Him with the utmost respect and awe. Avoid putting God in a box.
Next, we recognize that every request we have and will reprint next must fit within the Kingdom of God. It’s all about Him, not us. We don’t pray selfish prayers. We only pray what furthers His Kingdom. We pray for us to line up with the purposes and will of God. We live under the influence of the enemy. He is the prince of the power of the air as long as God allows it (Ephesians 2:2). So, we pray for everything on earth that is wrong to be aligned to God. We pray for His Kingdom to come.
Now that we have aligned our hearts with the truth of God’s personal presence with us, His power to do all things, kept His name holy and sacred, and made sure to align our requests with His Kingdom, we can ask our requests. Shortly after such alignment with God, our requests will match His power, presence, and purpose.
Praying this way humbles us, but it humbles our problems even more. They must bow to Jesus. They have no chance of defeating us or limiting us as God’s children. As we used to say to other children, “My Dad’s bigger than your dad.” Our first request is for God’s provision, both physically and spiritually. Our bread is the food we need, because Jesus is the Bread of Life. Our spirits need fed as much as our bodies. And He will grant our request as our Provider.
We next asked God for forgiveness both of our trespasses, and those who trespass against us. “Trespass” has the idea of stepping over the line of God’s law. When we violate His law or others violated us, we ask for forgiveness, for the relationship to be restored. We will make mistakes and sins against God and others as we walk this road. Thank God He is a forgiving God does not give up on us.
More deeply, we learn that God forgives. Then, we are responsible to forgive others, to reflect the nature of our good God. He doesn’t look so badly at unforgiveness because it’s the right thing to do, but because in forgiving others, we reflect His image and show we are related to Him as His children. That’s why God cares so much about forgiveness. When we forgive others, we make our Father proud.
Lastly in this template prayer, we ask God to be what he is, good to us. I’ve taught on this in my other posts on the Lord’s Prior, but it’s good to repeat it here. Something like, “and lead us not into temptation.”
The only problem I have with that translation is it makes no sense when paired against James’s teaching that God is not tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone (James 1:13). Scripture cannot go against itself. The word used for “temptation” ranges meaning from temptation, testing, or trial. It may be better to understand we are asking God not to lead us into a te and st of our fortitude, faith, character, and obedience.
God is good even in the middle of trials, test, and temptations. He never leaves us. He walks through trials with us if He does not take them away. His tests prove us to be sure and true in character and faith. They benefit us greatly. We can pray for God not to lead us into such tests and trials.
He always delivers us from evil. Whatever evil happens to us is not by His hand. It must bow to His power and Name. We need only to ask Him to deliver us, and He does. Let us never think anything does not bow to Him. If we pray prayers like this, we will see God’s mighty hand of power move.
The Priority of Forgiveness (Matthew 6:15)
Forgiveness is so close to God’s heart, that Jesus doubles back after His template prayer for us and reiterates forgiveness. Jesus’s words about forgiveness here could also be part of the results of His teaching on binding and loosing (). At the very least, they show how important forgiveness is to God.
Like the unjust servant, if we don’t forgive others the way God forgives us, we spit on His forgiving acts of salvation and love for us. We don’t value God’s forgiveness if we don’t forgive others of much lesser trespasses then we trespassed God’s laws. If we don’t learn forgiveness as God’s character and show others the same kindness, God has no obligation to forgive us.
How can we call ourselves God’s children or Christians, take His name, if we do not do as He does? To receive God’s forgiveness, we must forgive others. Our Father expects us to have the same reputation He does. The world must know us as forgiving people. We only do what we see our Father doing.
The Attitude of Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)
Again, Jesus begins His teaching on fasting with the same concept, that it is not an option but an expectation. He says, “When you fast…” Every Christian should fast regularly. If for no other reason than to kill the flesh and its demands upon us, we need to fast. There are some anymore purposes for fasting.
We can fast because of personal sin, to get closer to God, to hear from on an urgent matter, to grieve and ask His forgiveness, to seek His forgiveness and will for our sinful nation, for a deeper relationship with Him, to hear His voice, as an act of worship, and other reasons. Fasting more than anything else humbles us before God.
Are down seven It’s not a temper tantrum to get God to do what we want. Our attitude must be humble confidence. We must remember our place. We cannot force God to do anything. He acts graciously in response to our proper attitude before Him. Fasting gives us divine perspective. It reminds us who we are in Him, and who He is. Whatever your reason to fast, your attitude must be right before God.
Use the model of the Lord’s Prayer in your prayers. Let it guide you to prioritize God above your problems. You can come to Him with anything. If you don’t fast, begin small and have a regular fasting schedule.
We have talked about prayer and fasting as Jesus taught it. Next, I will present a teaching on where our true treasure is and how to keep our focus and priority on that.