Our first night of prayer during the fast was wonderfully poignant. There are few things as powerful as public confession, when people are sincere and specific. God's conviction and forgiveness were tangible. God wants to leave His indelible fingerprint on our lives.
Fasting is less painful with meaningful prayer. Prayer that deepens in intensity and connection to God is what makes a fast worthwhile. First it helps to know how to pray and what to pray.
Again Jesus' teaching on fasting and prayer in Matthew 6 is so helpful.
He calls us to a posture of confidence. "Your Father in heaven already knows what you need before you pray." Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the person who woke up his neighbor in the middle of the night for some bread. "His neighbor will get up and give him bread because of his impudence." I love that word. It means persistent audacity. Jesus encourages us to bother God with impudence.
Another posture is reverence. He is our Father, but He is holy, He is in heaven and he has a heavenly will that often runs counter to my earthly will. Prayer is not a menu where God the waiter takes our order. It is the place in which I align my will with His and begin to pray for that. This is how His kingdom comes. These are helpful postures in prayer.
But what about he nature of prayer? What do I pray? Jesus' teaching here is a most helpful framework. I break it onto 6 simple directions that help me to pray more specifically.
a. Adoration "Our Father who lives in heaven, Holy is your name." I worship God for His character, thank Him for the gift of the Gospel and His Spirit.
b. Submission "Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I bring my will to Him, and ask Him to show me where His will is counter to my will. This can be a wrestle!
c. Supplication "Give us this day our daily bread."I ask for His provision of faith, wisdom, clarity, energy and finances for that day. I pray for the needs of my family too.
d. Confession. "Forgive us our debts and we forgive those who are indebted to us." John Stott said that Christian is someone who forgives the inexcusable in others because the inexcusable has been forgiven in him. I keep repentance and forgiveness as specific as possible, and I keep on doing it until I am free from it.
e. Protection "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." The bible says to watch and pray so that we will not fall into temptation. Watchful prayer is recognizing the devil's schemes of temptation, asking God for protection against this strategy, and resisting Satan in prayer. We are in a spiritual battle! Let's not be spiritually naive. I pray protection on my family too.
f. Declaration "For yours is the kingdom the power and the glory." This is not in the Matthew text but I like to end by praying beyond my own life, into other situations like my family, friends, church, leadership team, and other churches we work with.
I encourage you to use this as a skeleton for your prayer. Flesh it out with your own situations, struggles and needs. Hopefully this will make your fasting more than a hunger strike!
See you tomorrow night.