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When We Do Good, Pray Or Fast

In Matthew 6:1-21, Jesus taught His disciples how to do good deeds, pray, fast, and lay treasures in heaven.

Matthew 6:1-4

Do good in secret

Matthew 6:5-8

Pray in secret

Matthew 6:9-15

The Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:16-18

Fast in secret

Matthew 6:19-21

True treasures and rewards

Matthew 6:1-21

  1. “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
  2. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
  3. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
  4. that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
  5. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
  6. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
  7. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
  8. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
  9. In this manner, therefore, pray:
    Our Father in heaven,
    Hallowed be Your name.
  10. Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done
    On earth as it is in heaven.
  11. Give us this day our daily bread.
  12. And forgive us our debts,
    As we forgive our debtors.
  13. And do not lead us into temptation,
    But deliver us from the evil one.
    For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
  14. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
  15. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
  16. “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
  17. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
  18. so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
  19. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
  20. but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
  21. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Praying, fasting and doing good deeds are essential in Christian living. The Bible did not say "if you do good or pray or fast" but "when you do good or pray or fast." Jesus did them regularly and encouraged His disciples to do likewise.

His teachings were not on whether His disciples should do good, pray or fast. He was actually teaching them how and what to do when they did good, prayed or fasted. What to do and what not to do.

Jesus gave them spiritual warnings about the potential dangers of doing good, praying and fasting in the wrong way.

Spiritual hypocrisy is a great danger in the journey of doing good, praying and fasting. Jesus warned us not to be like the hypocrites.

Whenever the hypocrites do good or pray or fast, they will put on a pretense and appearance in order to be seen doing so by men. They will sound a trumpet in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may gain glory from men. These hypocrites want others to know that they are spiritual and godly. Whenever they do their spiritual disciplines or routines, they want to be seen by men. This is the reward that the hypocrites are after - vainglory.

They long to be admired and adored by others for their spiritual endeavours, discipline, zeal and devotion to God. They lust for the praise of men for their religious accomplishments and deeds. This is the pride of life that all of us struggle with daily. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.

Jesus told us, "Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward." The hypocrites will get what they seek to get. The praise of men but not the praise from God!

Why does spiritual hypocrisy exist? Many religious people especially spiritual leaders always want others to "worship" them in their secret hearts. Yes, they want to be highly esteemed and get glory from men. They also want to become human idols to be worshipped, adored and respected by others.

When they pray, fast or do good, they will blow their trumpets and publish the news, letting others know when and what they are doing. Showing off to others how holy, how devoted and how charitable they are!

Such hypocrisy exists simply because people still look on the outside while God looks at the inside. The motivating factor in their hearts to do good, pray or fast is simply a secret desire for human admiration and adoration.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

These hypocrites are open and loud about what they are doing. But this very openness and public display are deceptive, concealing what they are truly lusting after. Their goal is to obtain the praise of men. They do not truly seek the Lord with all their heart and with all their soul. They say that they are seeking God but they are not! What motivates us to pray and fast should be a heart for God. Yes, a heart that hungers and longs for God.

These hypocrites fall into their own traps. Firstly, they seek for the wrong reward - the praise of men. Secondly, they hide all their religious actions and activities under a pretense of their love and devotion for God. They will get their wrong rewards. But God knows the intentions of their hearts! Their secret deeds are exposed in His eyes!

Jeremiah 17:9-10
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

A lot of Christians especially pastors and leaders get emotionally high on Sundays but feel the blues on Mondays. An adrenaline rush is an extremely intense feeling. Adrenaline is a natural hormone that is produced by the body and secreted throughout the body when we undergo some kinds of emotionally charged experiences. We will have an energetic feeling that makes us feel powerful and strong for a while. But when the adrenaline rush is over, the mountains will be made low, and the valleys will creep in. Thus, many leaders have little or no passion and motivation on Mondays. They will put out their "Don't Disturb!" signs.

Many apostolic and prophetic leaders often claim that they have prayed and fasted for 40 days just like our Lord did. Most of their claims are accompanied with unbelievable revelations and prophetic insights that will tickle the ears and hearts of their followers. They will then host and hold conferences sharing their encounters and experiences, and also selling their books, CDs and DVDs. The Word of God is often not preached at such meetings.

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to pray and fast for 40 days and 40 nights.

Matthew 4:1-2
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

After the 40 days were over, Jesus was tempted thrice by the devil. He overcame those temptations with the written Word. And Jesus was all alone with God. Nobody saw what He was doing in the wilderness. Similarly Moses was with God for 40 days and 40 nights. He was sustained by God and God alone. Moses too was called by God to do so.

Exodus 24:16-18
Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel. So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

The prayer and fasting for 40 days and 40 nights was initiated by God and not man. Definitely not a regular or annual quest to become super spiritual, prophetic, apostolic or anointed! The self-seeking temptations and traps are always just ahead!

Jesus showed us the right way. When we do a charitable deed, we do not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, so that our charitable deed may be in secret. When we pray, we go into our room, and when we have shut our door, we pray to our Father who is in the secret place. When we fast, we anoint our head and wash our face, so that we do not appear to men to be fasting, but to our Father who is in the secret place.

Being seen and wanting to be seen are not the same. Being seen doing good, praying or fasting is unavoidable if people happen to see what we are doing. But to do so with a self-exalting motive desiring to be seen is not okay. That's what a deceitful and wicked heart desires to obtain.

The Israelites have national praying and fasting days in their calendar! It is possible to pray and fast like that and still bring delight to the Lord. Public praying and fasting are permissible in the Bible. It is perfectly okay to come together to pray and fast and seek the Lord! The true motive is to seek the Lord, praise and please Him, not seeking the praise of men to please ourselves!

2 Chronicles 7:12-15

  1. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.

  2. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,

  3. if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

  4. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.

Jesus gave these instructions in Matthew 6 to let us test our own hearts and intentions. Do we want to be seen by men or God? Our true desires and treasures will be determined by what is in our hearts! To be seen by men has an earthly reward of instant gratification but to be seen by God has an eternal reward of infinite treasures in heaven.

Our Father, who is in secret, sees and knows what we are doing in secret. Doing good, praying or fasting is to be seen only by God.

Today, we do all sorts of religious things such as preaching, praying, fasting, attending church, reading the Bible, acts of kindness and charity, etc.

It is perfectly okay for others to see us doing good deeds, praying at meals, reading our Bibles, fasting etc. But it is not okay for us to do so with a secret agenda in our heart - to be seen by others so that they will praise us and make us feel proud and important!

We must do all things unto the Lord, and not desiring to be seen by men! God should be our focus and not others! All that thrill our hearts is God and what He thinks of us! Our Father who is in the secret place and our Father who sees in secret will reward us openly. God will graciously bestow upon us His abundant blessings from above!

When God sees us in secret, He will reveal Himself to us. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He shall give us the desires of our hearts. When we touch the heart of God, He will change our hearts and renew us! When we are refreshed and revived, we can then refresh and revive others!

The best reward of our praying and fasting is to bring glory and honor to His name! The name of God will be hallowed. His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

When we endure the temptations of crowning ourselves with many crowns, we will receive our rewards from God. When we crown Jesus with many crowns, He will openly crown us someday.

James 1:12
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Written on: 18 March 2016