Thursday, 20 May 2010

Why Pray & Fast?

To help us in our 3 days of Pray & Fasting (Matthew 6v5-18)

When you pray - Jesus assumed his followers would pray all manner of prayers; requests for ourselves or others, confession of sin, adoration, praise and thanksgiving.

But why does God want us to pray to him?
  • God the Father wants us to pray because it expresses our trust in Him and indicates that we are genuinely convinced of His wisdom, love, goodness and power.
  • God the Father not only wants us to trust him but also to love him - prayer brings us into deeper fellowship with Him who loves and delights in us.
  • God the Father allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important.
  • God the Father changes the way He acts when we make requests of Him (Lk 10v9, 2Chron7v14 & 1Jn1v9).
This last point can be confusing; The God of the bible is Sovereign (the right to do as He pleases), Omniscience (perfect wisdom & knowledge) and is Omnipotent (all powerful)... yet we get to change how He acts! Yet this is what Jesus taught (Luke 11). Prayer then is a communication in which God the Father will change the way He acts because we ask in prayer (without violating His nature or what is the very best for us). Sometimes we ‘have not’ simply because we ‘have not asked’ - prayer is a dynamic relationship with God.

Praying on our own - Jesus said we should pray on our own (Matt 6v6) and modelled this (Luke 5v16). The solitude would have helped him to remain focused and un-distracted by the presence of other people.

Praying with others - Jesus also said we should pray with others (Matt 18v18-20). Even Jesus’ teaching on prayer speaks of a congregation setting (us, ours Matt 6v12,13). The early church in Jerusalem lifted their voices together to God (Acts 4v24).

When you Fast - Jesus connects prayer with fasting (Matt 6v16)b which is a regular theme in Scripture (Neh 1v4, Dan 9v3, Lk 2v37, Acts 13v2). So prayer & fasting is a biblical thing to do with several benefits to us when we fast:
  • It increases our sense of humility and dependence upon Jesus.
  • It allows us to give more attention to prayer.
  • It reminds us that, just as we sacrifice some personal comfort for Jesus (by not eating) so we must sacrifice all of ourselves for him!
  • It is a good exercise in self discipline.
  • It can heighten our spiritual alertness and sense of God’s presence.
  • It expresses the earnestness and urgency of our prayers.
Though the New Testament doesn’t specifically require us to fast or set times when we must fast, Jesus certainly assumes we will (Matt 6v16 & 9v15).

So why do we Pray & Fast?
Well, Jesus assumed that His followers would pray to his Heavenly Father:
  • We pray because it acknowledges our dependence and trust in God the Father.
  • We pray because we are invited into the eternal fellowship of Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
  • We pray because we can change the way God acts even though He is Sovereign, Omniscience & Omnipotent.
  • We pray on our own because Jesus did, and he told us to do likewise.
  • We pray with others because Jesus taught us to, and this was the practice of the early church.
  • We pray and fast because Jesus expected us to and it is a grace filled means of expressing our earnestness and trust in Him.
  • We pray because we get to come to God the Father and experience His joy for us as ‘those hidden in His Son’.
  • We pray because it honours our Heavenly Father and it does us good!

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