The Prayer Side of Prayer and Fasting

April 26th     |     Sermon Text: Luke 18:1-14

Last week we looked at fasting in the Old and New Testament (click here to link). Both Isaiah and Jesus talked about the right and wrong way to do it. This week will focus on the prayer aspect of prayer and fasting, and again there is a right and wrong way.

The Parable of the Persistent Widow is the first thing we read in Luke 18. Even though the judge is wicked (neither fearing God nor regarding man) he grants justice to the widow because she keeps asking. Jesus is contrasting God the Father to the wicked judge. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that even we that are wicked know how to give good gifts to our children. How much more does God our Heavenly Father know how to give even better gifts to his children? If even a wicked judge is persuaded by persistent asking, then a loving and merciful God will do even better. The lesson here is to be persistent. James later went a step further by saying “You have not because you ask not.”

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector are described in verses 9 – 14. The Pharisee is “thankful” that he is not like other men and presents God with a list of such people, including the tax collector that has also come to pray. The tax collector does not even look up toward heaven but humbly asks “have mercy on me a sinner.” The issue is attitude. Humility (not unlike fasting) is something we don’t hear much about in our culture. We bow our heads or kneel in prayer in reverence of the one we pray to. The very fact we are asking God for anything in the first place is an admission that we cannot provide for ourselves. Our prayers don’t make things happen; our faith in God motivates him to act on our behalf.

Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. In Matthew 6 he gave his followers some specific warnings about what not to do and then told them to pray in this manner:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread,
 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
-Matthew 6:9-13 

1) This model prayer begins by recognizing who God is and prescribing to him honor and glory. Psalm 100 says that we are to “enter his gates with thanksgiving” and “come into his courts with praise.” We are praying to God not talking about God! Address him by name, give him glory, and offer thanks for all the blessings we have been given already before asking for anything else.

2) We are taught to pray for God’s will. Jesus did the same when he prayed in Gethsemane “not my will but yours be done.” In our season of prayer and fasting we will seek to know and do God’s will more than ask for any specific blessing. We are committing ourselves to his purposes rather than asking for x, y or z.

3) We ask for God’s provision. Give us this day our daily bread is focused on the immediate need and recognizes God’s hand in the daily events of our lives. The Hebrews following Moses were fed manna, each day exactly what they needed for that day, for a period of 40 years. God will provide for today and don’t worry about tomorrow; when that comes he will provide then as well. We are warned elsewhere to not rely on our own strength or understanding, those are gifts from God as well.

4) We must forgive debts (or trespasses) as we are forgiven. A warning follows the prayer in Matthew 6 that if we don’t not forgive others God will not forgive us.

5) We read in James 1 that God is not tempted to sin nor does he tempt anyone. The model prayer asks that we not be led into temptation but delivered from evil. We know that the one who is tempted but does not sin is blessed; we are even more blessed by not being tempted in the first place.

This is often labeled as The Lord’s Prayer but it would be more appropriate to call it The Model Prayer or even the Disciples’ Prayer. We may repeat the exact words but Jesus said to pray in this manner. These are guidelines, a rubric for how we are to pray.

On May 1st and 2nd the members of Unity Baptist Church will join with friends, family and the community at large for a time of prayer and fasting. You are invited to join us in person or at the throne of grace in seeking God’s will and asking for his blessing. We will gather on Friday evening at 7 and Saturday afternoon at 2 for corporate and public prayer, weather permitting on the front lawn of the church. If you can fast, please do. If you can meet, please do. If you can pray… and I know you can… please do.

Peace and God bless.

About Clark Bunch

Clark Bunch is the pastor of Unity Baptist Church and author of God is Near. He and his wife Teresa have one child. In his spare time he enjoys blogging, playing guitar and riding his motorcycle. And coffee, he'd be nowhere without coffee.
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