21 Days of Prayer and Fasting - Day 4
Matthew 6:5-8 “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 6:16-18 “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.
Prayer and fasting were two practices that Jesus addressed in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. Here’s a few observations regarding these practices: One is that Jesus assumed that his disciples or followers would engage in these practices. Secondly, Jesus strongly stated how his disciples are to not engage with these practices. You are to not be like the hypocrites. You are not to make these practices requirements or platforms for self-righteousness or public displays of spiritual elitism. Thirdly, you are to not be so disturbed by how the religious hypocrites approached these practices that you drift into complacency.
Neither, hypocrisy or complacency will do. God wants your heart. Jesus invites you into a relationship with God as your heavenly father. This is a relationship that is to be compelled by love, and a desire to be in the presence of God. One in which your heart, uncontaminated by external religious motives, is fully engaged in longing to be with God. One in which neither hypocrisy or complacency will do because we are so stirred by love that we must go to the secret place to be with God. A heart that is fully devoted and engaged in its longing for God is what Jesus invites us into.
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” A pure heart is a heart that is a heart of singularity and simplicity as opposed to defilement and duplicity. The way of the world, and of our hearts is defilement and duplicity. In Matthew 15:18, Jesus said, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Our own hearts are deceitful, and in need of transformation. The lives of the religious hypocrites, and possibly our own, are filled with duplicity living with divided hearts and actions. The deep transformative work that Jesus wants to do on hearts is not merely about doing the “right things” outwardly, but rather about the inner character being shaped and formed by the kingdom of God. This brings singularity and simplicity, which is a decompartmentalized life centered around God and His kingdom.
I encourage you to pray as the psalmist did in Psalm 139, “Search me God, and know my heart.”
Take a moment to examine your heart, and invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart.
How have you been shaped or formed by hypocrisy or complacency?