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August 27, 2006
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Sermon Outline

Sermon Series: “Say What? – A look at the Words of Jesus”

Today’s sermon: “A Hungry Man’s Prayer”

 

Matthew 6:5-15

 

And when you pray…

(5-8)

 

This is how you should pray…

(9-15)

 

And when you fast…

(16-18)

 

-         fasting appears to be connected to prayer

o       He compares the fasting of the hypocrites (as seen in verse 16) to proper fasting just as He compared the prayer of hypocrites (as seen in verse 5) to proper praying

 

-         However, fasting seems to be in addition to prayer too.

o       In Jesus’ instructions to pray He does not say you have to fast

 

-         However, He does say in verse 16, “When you fast…”

o       There is an assumption that fasting is something that is being done and should continue to be done.

 

What is fasting?

 

What is Jesus referring to?

 

-         definition of the word “Fast”:

o       To abstain from food and drink

 

To fast and pray is to abstain from food and drink while praying

 

Is fasting required?

 

-         In the Old Testament, fasting was required at certain times and for certain occasions

o       It was one way in which the people of Israel prepared themselves to meet with God

        They wanted everything about themselves to be as pure as possible if they were going to meet with God (including what was inside their body)

 

-         In the Old Testament, God did not allow His people to eat certain kinds of food because they were considered unclean.

o       God wanted His people to be set apart from the world in every way, including the foods they ate.

        The world around them would be able to look upon the people of Israel and see that they were different.  Their God was different.  Their God was real.

 

Things changed a bit in the New Testament.

 

Matthew 9:14-17.

 

At the time of this incident there must have been some sort of religious festival going on and it was common for people at that time to be fasting.

 

However, Jesus and His disciples were not fasting.  Why? 

 

Because Jesus referred to Himself as the bridegroom, He was proclaiming Himself to be the Messiah.

 

In essence, He was saying, “the old ways of doing things are coming to an end very soon.  The Old testament rules and regulations will not be required.  There will be a better way.

 

Notice, however, He says that after Jesus will be taken from them, then they will fast

 

Some would say that With Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross, there would be no need for fasting, but Jesus Himself shows that fasting will continue.

 

In Mark 9:28-29, the disciples were trying to cast out a demon but they could not.

 

After Jesus Had gone indoors, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?  He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting].”

 

So,

 

If fasting is not required as a religious duty

 

And

 

We can fast as a part of prayer but we do not have to fast every time we pray,

 

 

 

What is fasting all about?

 

Let’s look at some examples in the Scriptures when people took time to fast.

 

Moses fasted for forty days on Mount Sinai in order to receive the law and guidance in the wilderness ( Ex 34:28 ; Deut 9:9 ).

 

Jesus, before starting His earthly ministry and calling his disciples, went into the wilderness to pray and fast. ( Mt 4:2)

 

On one occasion he the disciples were complaining that they were hungry and had no food.  Jesus responded in a way that said, God’s purposes are more important than satisfying your hunger.  It was as if to say, “ you are just going to have to stay hungry until God says we are done doing what He wants us to do.  God’s business is always more important than food. ( Jn 4:31–34 ).

 

The early church spent some time in prayer and fasting so that they would know who to send as missionaries. (Acts 13:3–4 ).

 

 

Fasting is one way that we can surrender ourselves totally to the Lord.

Let me explain.

 

Fasting is a human way of saying, I totally depend on God and am surrendered to Him even to the point of leaving food and drink behind.

 

It is letting go of all the desires of self, including the desires of the physical body in order to surrender to God’s will in your life.

 

When we remove food and water from our lives, we begin to realize how dependant we are on those things and how much they control us.  (same thing is true for cars, TV, microwaves, computers, etc.)

Fasting causes us to stop depending on to earthly things and start clinging to God for help.

 

Why is this type of personal surrender necessary?

 

God wants us to cling to Him so He can speak to us. 

 

We must be surrendered before God if we expect to hear from Him.  (God rarely speaks to us in big ways when we are pre-occupied with other things.)

 

God will not respond to our requests or give us answers to our questions if we are not coming to Him with a surrendered and broken heart.

Which brings us to our next point.

 

Fasting is done when we genuinely want to hear from God.

 

 

When we come before God in prayer we must always come with a neutral heart.  I’ll do whatever you say.

 

Remember Matthew 6:10.  Your kingdom come, your will be done…”

 

All of the above individuals needed God to step in big ways.  More than in any other time in their lives, they needed to hear clearly from God.

 

-         Moses needed guidance to lead a nation and God gave Him the Law.

 

-         Jesus needed guidance from the Lord regarding who He was going to pick to be His disciples and how He was going to do His ministry

 

-         The early church needed guidance about who it was that God was calling to be missionaries.

 

 

Nothing in their life (including food) was more important that finding out God’s will.

 

Do we have to fast?

 

No

 

Is fasting a great way to force yourself into dependence upon the Lord as you seek His will?

 

Yes

 

So, what is the real issue?

 

God wants us to stop what we are doing long enough to focus on Him for the direction we need in our lives.

 

A person who does not stop life long enough to pray is a person whose life is headed down the road to disaster.  Most likely that person is lost and confused.

 

You cannot get clear direction without stopping to pray.

 

Going back to Matthew 6:5-6, we need to get alone with God, cling to Him and listen to what He has to say.

 

Fasting is just one way we can prepare our hearts to listen to God so that His will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

 

We as a church need to be a time of prayer.

 

In the midst of the crisis we have no choice to do anything but pray and ask God what His will is for our church.