Prayer & Fasting

Series: You've Heard It Said

September 17, 2017
Andy Glass

The fifth sermon in the series of messages on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. In His teaching, Jesus clearly teaches that as followers of Christ, reflecting his character, we are called to live above the expectations of the world ... that we are called to meet more than the minimum requirements.

Episode Notes


WE MUST pray in secret before we pray in public (v.5-6). 

It is not wrong to pray in public in the assembly (1 Tim. 2:1ff), or even when blessing food (John 6:11) or seeking God’s help (John 11:41–42; Acts 27:35). 

But it is wrong to pray in public if we are not in the habit of praying in private. 

Observers may think that we are practicing prayer when we are not, and this is hypocrisy. 

The word translated closet means “a private chamber.” It could refer to the store-chamber in a house. Our Lord prayed privately (Mark 1:35); so did Elisha (2 Kings 4:32ff) and Daniel (Dan. 6:10ff

WE MUST pray sincerely (vv. 7–8). 

The fact that a request is repeated does not make it a “vain repetition”; for both Jesus and Paul repeated their petitions (Matt. 26:36–46; 2 Cor. 12:7–8). 

A request becomes a “vain repetition” if it is only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will. 

The mere reciting of memorized prayers can be vain repetition. The Gentiles had such prayers in their pagan ceremonies (see 1 Kings 18:26

WE MUST pray in God’s will (vv. 9–13). 

This prayer is known familiarly as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but “The Disciples’ Prayer” would be a more accurate title. 

Jesus did not give this prayer to us to be memorized and recited a given number of times. In fact, He gave this prayer to keep us from using vain repetitions. Jesus did not say, “Pray in these words.” 

The purpose of prayer is to glorify God’s name, and to ask for help to accomplish His will on earth. This prayer begins with God’s interests, not ours: God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. Robert Law has said, “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done in earth.” We have no right to ask God for anything that will dishonor His name, delay His kingdom, or disturb His will on earth.

It is worth noting that there are no singular pronouns in this prayer; they are all plural. It begins with “OUR Father.” When we pray, we must remember that we are part of God’s worldwide family of believers. We have no right to ask for ourselves anything that would harm another member of the family. If we are praying in the will of God, the answer will be a blessing to all of God’s people in one way or another.

If we put God’s concerns first, then we can bring our own needs. God is concerned about our needs and knows them even before we mention them (Matt. 6:8). 

If this is the case, then why pray? 

Because prayer is the God-appointed way to have these needs met (see James 4:1–3). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer

WE MUST pray, having a forgiving spirit toward others (vv. 14–15). 

In this “appendix” to the prayer, Jesus expanded the last phrase of Matthew 6:12

WE MUST fast (Matt. 6:16–18) 

The only fast that God actually required of the Jewish people was on the annual Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27). The Pharisees fasted each Monday and Thursday (Luke 18:12) and did so in such a way that people knew they were fasting. Their purpose, of course, was to win the praise of men. As a result, the Pharisees lost God’s blessing.

It is not wrong to fast, if we do it in the right way and with the right motive. Jesus fasted (Matt. 4:3); so, did the members of the early church (Acts 13:2). 

Fasting helps to discipline the appetites of the body (Luke 21:34) and keep our spiritual priorities straight. But fasting must never become an opportunity for temptation (1 Cor. 7:5). Simply to deprive ourselves of a natural benefit (such as food or sleep) is not of itself fasting. 

We must devote ourselves to GOD and worship Him

Unless there is the devotion of the heart (see Zech. 7) there is no lasting spiritual benefit.

As with giving and praying, true fasting must be done in secret; it is between the believer and God. To “make unsightly” our faces (by looking glum and asking for pity and praise) would be to destroy the very purpose of the fast. 


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