Prayer Fasting and Forgiveness

by Mike Ratliff

9 Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς· Matthew 6:9a (NA28)

9 Therefore, thus pray you; Matthew 6:9a (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The context of Matthew 6:9-13 from which we get what is traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer,” is, of course, Matthew 6, which is part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. The theme of Matthew 6:1-18 (the context of vv 9-13) is found in v1, “Προσέχετε [δὲ] τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς· εἰ δὲ μή γε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.” Or, “But be careful to not demonstrate your righteousness before men with the aim to be seen by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in Heaven.” Our Lord gives an example in vv 2-4 of believers giving alms to the needy. Their motive is to be seen by others in order to receive praise from men. Then in vv 5-18 our Lord gives uses the examples of prayer, fasting, and forgiveness, which will be the subject of this post. 

5 Καὶ ὅταν προσεύχησθε, οὐκ ἔσεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί, ὅτι φιλοῦσιν ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς καὶ ἐν ταῖς γωνίαις τῶν πλατειῶν ἑστῶτες προσεύχεσθαι, ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. 6 σὺ δὲ ὅταν προσεύχῃ, εἴσελθε εἰς τὸ ταμεῖόν σου καὶ κλείσας τὴν θύραν σου πρόσευξαι τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ· καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ ἀποδώσει σοι.
7 Προσευχόμενοι δὲ μὴ βατταλογήσητε ὥσπερ οἱ ἐθνικοί, δοκοῦσιν γὰρ ὅτι ἐν τῇ πολυλογίᾳ αὐτῶν εἰσακουσθήσονται. 8 μὴ οὖν ὁμοιωθῆτε αὐτοῖς· οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὧν χρείαν ἔχετε πρὸ τοῦ ὑμᾶς αἰτῆσαι αὐτόν.
9 Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς·
Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·
10 ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς·
11 τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·
12 καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·
13 καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,
ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.
14 Ἐὰν γὰρ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν, ἀφήσει καὶ ὑμῖν ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος· 15 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀφῆτε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, οὐδὲ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ἀφήσει τὰ παραπτώματα ὑμῶν.
16 Ὅταν δὲ νηστεύητε, μὴ γίνεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταὶ σκυθρωποί, ἀφανίζουσιν γὰρ τὰ πρόσωπα αὐτῶν ὅπως φανῶσιν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύοντες· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀπέχουσιν τὸν μισθὸν αὐτῶν. 17 σὺ δὲ νηστεύων ἄλειψαί σου τὴν κεφαλὴν καὶ τὸ πρόσωπόν σου νίψαι, 18 ὅπως μὴ φανῇς τοῖς ἀνθρώποις νηστεύων ἀλλὰ τῷ πατρί σου τῷ ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ· καὶ ὁ πατήρ σου ὁ βλέπων ἐν τῷ κρυφαίῳ ἀποδώσει σοι. Matthew 6:5-18 (NA28)

5 And whenever you pray, do not be as the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets in order to be seen by men. Amen, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, enter into your hidden room and, having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret. And your Father seeing in secret will repay you.
7 But praying, do not babble as the Gentiles; for they think that in their wordiness they will be heard. 8 Therefore, do be like them. For your Father knows of what things you have need before you ask him.
9 Therefore, thus pray you;
‘Our Father in Heaven,
let your name be revered.
10 Let your Kingdom come.
Let your will be done
on Earth as in Heaven.
11 Give to us our daily bread today
12 and forgive us our debts
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us into temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive me their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 16 And whenever you fast, do not be as the gloomy hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that they may appear to men as ones fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you fasting, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that you man not appear to men as ones fasting, but only to your Father in secret, and your Father seeing in secret will repay you.
 Matthew 6:5-18 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

We really should not be surprised or dismayed when we suffer at the hands of people as Christians. What can be heartrending though is when this mistreatment comes from professing Christians as they operate in the office of their ministry. One button I caution anyone reading this never to push with me is to falsely accuse me. Our enemy knows this of course and it will set me off, but as you read in that post, we cannot allow those circumstances to cause that. Nor can we allow them to nullify us in our own ministries. We must stand firm and continue in our obedience, but we must do so wrapped in Christlikeness. There is that part in me deep down that wants to send some heat seeking missiles to a few people and take a few out with my Louisville Slugger baseball bat, but that is just anger out of control and is all flesh and when we allow those things to take control, even only in our thoughts, we lose and those who have attacked us win. No, we must stand right in the middle of the truth, not backing down, but also, not stooping to their level of immature insolence. Also, as you just read in the that prayer our Lord gave us, there is that part about forgiveness…

I have always had a problem praying publicly. As a deacon in two different SBC churches, this was a big deal. I thought it silly that we were required to take turns doing this before the church on Sunday mornings or prayer meetings or Deacon’s meetings. To me, prayer is an intensely personal thing between God and myself. We always had some superstar guys who could pray forever with those long eloquent prayers too. Not me. Mine were quick and succinct. In the last church where I served as a deacon, the one that the pastor took Purpose Driven, I was considered to be spiritually deficient by a few of the deacons and the pastor because of this. However, these were the same ones seeking to match up our church with the culture rather than simply being the Church, preaching the Gospel, and ministering to the Sheep.

Notice the prayer in vv9-13. The focus is on God and His glory isn’t it? Praying for God’s Kingdom to come is asking for His Kingdom to continue to advance and be fulfilled. When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven, we are asking for God’s revealed will to be done. This will only be fully experienced when God’s Kingdom comes in complete fulfillment, but we should still pray for people, especially Christians, to conduct themselves in ways that are pleasing to God as revealed in Scripture. Our daily bread is talking about the necessities of life. Yes, we should ask God to give us what we need every day from a grateful heart.

All in Christ are justified, fully justified by faith. This petition to have our debts forgiven is talking about a restoration of personal fellowship with God when it has been hindered by sin. When we sin and are forgiven, don’t we also forgive those who sin against us?

In the last petition of this prayer, we are instructed to ask God to “not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” The first part of that is talking about asking God to spare us from difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin. I am positive that I do not pray enough about this. John Bunyan confessed that his long trial in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners was this very thing. He became self reliant and this pride then became an area of testing and trial that had to be broken before God could use him. The last part of that is that God would deliver us from the evil one. How can believers be protected from him (Satan)? Isn’t it to depend upon God alone for direction and protection? That is what our Lord is talking about here.

In vv14-15 our Lord reemphasizes the vital importance for believers in the forgiveness of others. If we do not practice this, we not only become bitter, we plant the seeds of it in those whom we do not forgive. I am sure our enemy loves this. When Christians can’t get along and, full of pride, won’t even talk to each other, well that is nothing but the fruit of the flesh.

Fasting can be very rewarding spiritually, but it can also be a source of prideful behavior. Our Lord is telling us here that when we do fast; let the facts of it be private and known only between God and ourselves. If we violate that, it becomes nothing more than another fleshly exercise of false spirituality because fasting is all about humbling ourselves before God. If we go public with it then it becomes a product of pride.

My brethren, I pray that this short study was helpful. As we become the good soldiers of the Lord Jesus in these increasingly dark times, we cannot serve him in the flesh. We must serve him his way, by abiding in him and walking according to the spirit not the flesh. The more I come into contact with those who surround the superstars Christian leaders in our time, I find more and more of the latter rather than the former. That would be very discouraging if I had my eyes on men rather than Christ. Let us keep our eyes on Him my brethren.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “Prayer Fasting and Forgiveness

  1. I am glad I am not the only one who struggles with this. Thank you for sharing your struggles and battles within your heart. Through all this craziness happening today, I am having to constantly ask the Lord to help me in not allowing my heart to become callous and hard. I ask Him to keep my heart malleable and soft so it can be molded according to His good purposes.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.