#362 - PRAYER (1/6/21)
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting and some of the other spiritual disciplines.
Today, I want to revisit and reinforce what we learnt from The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus teaches on fasting in the context of prayer. Christian fasting is always accompanied by focussed devotion to the Father.
It’s helpful to use the four themes of The Lord’s Prayer: Praise, Petitions, Peace-making and Protection in order to ensure that our prayer-diet is balanced. Let’s briefly recap these:
“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” (Matthew 6:9)
Jesus teaches us to begin our praying by looking up in praise. Praise or worship sets our minds and hearts on who God is and who we are in relation to Him. In worship our, problems and needs are put into perspective and faith rises for prayer. In worship, we are reminded of how God has saved us in Jesus. It’s often helpful to use a text of scripture as inspiration.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:10-11)
After we have allowed our worship to lift our eyes and faith to the Father, He also wants us to bring our requests - our petitions to Him.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ (Matthew 6:12)
This theme is about the restoration of relationships. Firstly, sin damages our relationship with the Father. Do we need to ask for forgiveness from the Father? Secondly, we are to seek to restore relationships with people through the power of forgiveness.
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)
A healthy prayer-diet regularly asks for protection against temptation and dark forces.
Without a plan, we are unlikely to develop good prayer habits. Decide when, where and for how long you will pray.
COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - WHEN YOU FAST
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Do you have any funny stories regarding food?
Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting as it is combined with prayer.
On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting when accompanied by prayer.
Fasting, for many, is a mysterious or even a scary subject. The devil wants to discourage us from true prayer and fasting because of the power that it releases.
Please read Matthew 6:5-18
i) When you fast
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus includes fasting alongside giving and prayer. We are to must assume that, like these, fasting is an essential part of the Christian life.
Jesus expects his disciples to fast. Jesus makes it clear that there is a reward if we do it as He directs.
Jesus teaches us how not to fast - for a show. This perversion can easily infect any spiritual practice. I’m told that the Pharisees often had a practice of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. These were market days and so their spiritual devotion would receive greater attention.
Jesus teaches that our fasting is for God alone. We fast so as to focus on Him rather than in order for people to focus on us!
ii) What is fasting?
Fasting, strictly, is going without food for a set about of time in order to pray. Other kinds of fasts from delicacies or distractions can also be also be implemented.
Fasting helps us in two main ways:
Firstly, If you go without food for any time you will quickly realise your weakness and dependence upon God.
Secondly, fasting also frees up the time spent in preparing and eating, for prayer.
There are a number of reasons - ill health, pregnancy… - as to why it would not be wise to fast from food. However, we can fast from entertainment, social media etc. In fact, when you are fasting food, I encourage you to remove these distractions also.
The average person spends around 1 hour 50 minutes on social media and 4 hours watching video on demand each day! That’s a lot of potential prayer time!
iii) It’s time to fast.
Jesus said about the church in this age,
‘…The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.’ (Matthew 9:15)