When living in the Community of Believers or Body of Christ there are times that worship is done as a community and times that worship is a private matter. Worship, as we know is a many faceted thing. The Community of Believers that received this writing had basic understandings yet needed warnings and a how to since it was a young community. One thing they did learn is that each person is known to God and wants to hear their needs, their praises, and they understood that they cannot do things which involve their eternal rest, alone.
Your fasts should not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays. You should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. And do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in the gospel: Our Father in heaven, holy be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us enough bread day-by-day. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. Pray this three times each day.
This part has to do with devotional piety. How one fasts is a personal direct reflection of their desire to rid themselves of the world and be closer to God. Prayer is both corporate and private but not boasting nor for the attention of other people. This issue is prevalent even today where people will shout personal prayers out loud in a non-body of believers environment while boasting of their achievements and problems in prayer. One thing to note right away, this prayer was not ended with “In Jesus Name”. It is because this is a direct prayer to God as well as our way of expressing full devotion and worship of God alone. Praying in Jesus name came after the need to recognize Jesus as mediator. That aside, let us see what the writer is saying.
Fasting: A Private Matter
The writer notes that a separation between hypocrites and their fast days was necessary to make things right with God. Thing is, there were those that fasted Mondays and Thursday while the Way believers fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. The reason, the believers fasted in preparation for the Sabbath while the hypocrites fasted after the Sabbath and not right before. The other part is openly stating and boasting of the fast. Fasting is not a public event. It is a private, physical showing of the spiritual, personal devotion to God. Jesus said that it is a private matter between the sinner and God, the same as prayer.
Prayer: Communication with God
Jesus presented a way to pray with the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer begins with praises to the Father and asks for the will of the Father to be the main activity on earth as it is in Heaven. Now the bread is a two-fold meaning, continue to sustain us with physical nourishment as the Word nourishes our soul. The debt is our sins to which we are slaves to. God forgives us but to receive ultimate forgiveness we need to forgive others as god has forgiven us. The time of trial is asking that we stay from the temptations in life through staying in the Word and understand that He is our rescuer. Basically, Praise God and know that we cannot do things without Him. We cannot save ourselves nor recover from our sinfulness without God.
The writer notes that we should pray three times a day. These prayer times were instituted by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob respectively. Abraham instituted Morning Prayer, Isaac prayed mid- day and Jacob closed out his day in prayer. Jesus proclaimed we should pray constantly and persistently.
All in all the message being revealed here is that there are matters which are of the heart that should not be boasted in public. The other piece is not to be openly zealous in presenting the fact that you are a believer, rather show by simply living life as a person of faith. Remember the story of the boastful priest versus the humble thief in prayer. Be like the humble one but in all things. Love to all and blessings.