For me, self-care is a matter of stewardship. I have been entrusted with only one life. How well it turns out is affected by how well I care for my body and mind.
Along the way, will I encounter environmental factors beyond my control? Certainly. My genetics will play a part. Like you, I’m only getting older. The appearing bald spot on the top of my head looks much like the one my father had.
Genetics aside, where I have the ability to choose, I want to choose well.
What does much of this boil down to? One thing: our habits.
We’re going to look at two habits that directly impact the quality of our lives. Regular prayer and fasting are spiritual practices that will keep you aligned with the heart of God.
Our passage today comes from the longest recorded sermon of Jesus – what is commonly referred to as the sermon on the mount. It’s about what a healthy relationship with God looks like and what it requires. In Matthew 6, Jesus will talk about prayer and fasting.
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:5-8
For Jesus, was prayer simply a matter of talking to God … or talking about God? Prayer is a means of experiencing God. It’s why he speaks so strongly about using prayer as a way of impressing others – that’s not the point. It’s also why he discourages using prayer as a form of spiritual filibustering.
Both of these highlight a common misconception about prayer: that we pray in order to get something.
The purpose of prayer isn’t to get something; it is to know Someone. It’s why prayer also involves listening. We are not praying if we are doing all the talking.
Of all the spiritual practices that we will explore in this series, the idea of fasting may be the most misunderstood and the least utilized. Let’s hear what Jesus says about it …
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:16-18
What does fasting even mean? It’s become common to hear people – often during the weeks before Easter – to talk about fasting from Netflix or social media. While that may not be a bad idea, that’s not what Jesus meant when he talked about fasting. In the Bible, fasting meant abstaining from food for the purpose of seeking God.
How does that work? Fasting is the intentional practice of taking our eyes off temporary things and putting our full attention on Jesus.
Throughout the Bible, men and women fasted in order to hear from God. Here are a few examples:
- Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and received the 10 commandments.
- David fasted when he learned his friend Jonathon had been killed.
- Nehemiah fasted when he heard that Jerusalem was in ruins.
- Jesus himself fasted for 40 days and 40 nights at the start of his ministry.
I started 2019 with a 21 day juice fast. For me it was a fantastic way to start the new year … it helped me focus on what is most important. And what is that?
The most important thing is not your family. It’s not your job, finances, or health. The most important thing is your relationship with God. Why? Because it affects every other area of your life.
Your ability to have spiritual influence is reduced by not paying attention to what God is doing. An alert person is one who is in a heightened state of awareness. Their spiritual radar is up and running.
That’s what regular prayer and fasting does for us.
So, how do you get started?
1. Develop a regular time for praying. Don’t leave it to chance. For me, it’s the first thing in morning – even before I fix coffee (and many of you know how much I love coffee).
2. Pray the words of the Bible. If you don’t know what to say, pray the words of Scripture – book of Psalm is a great place to start.
3. Pick up a copy of the article “Fasting for Beginners.” It’s at the welcome desk.
Regular prayer and fasting are spiritual practices that will keep you aligned with the heart of God.
Experience and Background
- 25+ years of senior leadership experience
- masters in management and leadership
- presenter at the WFX National Conference
- former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
- helped start 2 for-profit tech companies
To get a better feel for my style and personality, you can watch past sermons on our YouTube channel.
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