“When you give to the needy.” Vs. 2; “When you pray.” Vs. 5; “When you fast.” Vs. 16. ESV
Based on the words used, especially “when”, it sure looks like these three things are expectations for people who follow Jesus. The practices were certainly a part of the Jewish culture, and Jesus expands on them as he preaches this message. These are things that are a part of our good works – those good works Paul says in Ephesians that each of us is called to. Some would call them spiritual disciplines – those things we do habitually to keep ourselves focused on Jesus (seek first His kingdom), and grow as his disciples.
These practices are hard to incorporate on a regular basis. Especially fasting. Let’s face it, none of us like going without food! That’s the reason these things are important for us to do. They force us to break out of the ordinary day to day living that sometimes lulls us to sleep in our Christian walk. When we participate in these disciplines – consciously giving, praying and fasting, we break out of the routine of being focused on ourselves and our own lives, and turn that focus toward God. When we do that, our relationship with Him becomes closer and we can’t help but make movement “up and to the right” in our walk with Him.
God, don’t let these spiritual disciplines become optional in my life. May I regularly take time to give, to pray and to fast. Let your spirit prompt me until I do.