WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
OCTOBER 27, 2023
TOPIC: WHEN YOU PRAY AND FAST
BY T. O. BANSO
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites…Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites” (Matthew 6:5a, 16 New King James Version).
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus dealt with three important subjects: When you give (verses 1-4), when you pray (verses 5-14), and when you fast (verses 16-18). Verse 3 says, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (New King James Version). Verse 5: “But you, when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites” (New King James Version). Verse 16: “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance” (New King James Version).
My focus is not on when you give, but on when you pray, and when you fast. This is understandable because we usually talk about prayer and fasting. But the truth is that the three should go together. When you pray and fast, you should also give – do charitable deeds.
In addressing the subject of praying and fasting, Jesus taught his listeners against the backdrop of the hypocritical practices of the religious people of His days. He taught that they should not emulate them.
Matthew 6:5-7 says, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (New King James Version). Pay attention to these words of Jesus when you pray. Jesus was not against praying in public, but hypocritical practices.
From Matthew 6:5-7, you can learn that when you pray, find a quiet, secluded place to pray. God should be your focus, not you or others. When you pray, don’t babble like the pagans who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. In other words, avoid vain, thoughtless, meaningless, or empty repetition. The repetition here is qualified. Jesus did not mean that all repetitions of words in prayer are wrong because the Bible records that He also prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane “saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44 New King James Version). The prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:26, called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “‘O Baal, hear us! But there was no voice; no one answered’” (New King James Version).
Teaching further about prayer in Matthew 6:9-15, the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus also said that when you pray, worship God, desire His will, be specific in your request, ask forgiveness of your sins, and forgive those who have wronged you. When you pray, pay attention to all this. Elsewhere, the Bible talks extensively about forgiveness (Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
When you fast, what should you do differently from the hypocrites? “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16-18 New King James Version).
When you fast, don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t look hungry and angry! Nobody forced you to fast! Don’t make it the topic of discussion. Let it be between you and God. Of course, your spouse or close family members may know so that they don’t get worried that you’re not eating. It is only when it’s a corporate fast that church members may know you’re fasting. Not all members fast during corporate fasting!
Avoid hypocrisy when you pray and fast. If you want God to reward you, don’t try to impress anyone. Focus on God. God answers prayer. Pray in faith, Pray according to His will. Believe that He has answered you and thank Him. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 New King James Version).
Furthermore, don’t engage in marathon praying and fasting in a way that will harm you, as some have done, leading to death in some cases because they did pay attention to their health. Take care of yourself by taking necessary precautions, including drinking a lot of water, especially during prolonged praying and fasting. Praying and fasting should be a blessing, not a curse.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, I receive the grace to pray, fast, and give, not like the hypocrites. I shall focus on You, Father, when I pray, not myself or others. I shall not engage in vain, thoughtless, meaningless, or empty repetition. Holy Spirit, help me to pray and fast according to the Word of God.
(For over 900 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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