Jesus Christ said, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer.”

God Wants Realness Not Ritual in Prayer and Fasting, Part 1 (Praying Through the Bible #106)

Listen to the audio version: Part A | Part B

TEXT: Zechariah 7:1-7

A Christian man once told the story of how he went to a men’s conference to learn how to be a better husband. One of the speakers at the conference was a very well-respected relationship expert, and he gave the men some guidelines on how they should treat their wives on a regular basis in order to have a harmonious marriage. For example, he said: on Tuesdays, take your wife out for dinner; on Thursdays, buy your wife some flowers; on Saturday, stay home with the children and make sure your wife has some time and money to go shopping by herself or with her girlfriends. So on the first Thursday, after the conference, this man was determined to do as he had learned. He went out and bought some flowers after work, and when he got home, he presented them to his wife. However, he was disappointed at her reaction. Instead of being pleased and surprised at his gesture, she said to him, “Are you doing this just because it is something somebody told you to do while you were at that conference?”

The man, of course, was seriously put off. But, what his wife was getting at was that she did not want anything from him that was perfunctory or fake. She wanted whatever he gave her to come truly from his own heart and mind.

The minor prophet Zechariah records an instance in which God deals with the very same thing with His chosen people, Israel. Zechariah was born in Babylon during the Exile of the Jews, and he was one of those Jews who returned to the Promised Land after the Exile was over. He participated in the rebuilding of his homeland, and scholars believe he was a young man at the beginning of his prophetic ministry.

As the Jews resettled in the Promised Land, they had numerous questions about how to relate to God, now that the exile was over. One of those questions involved two ritual fasts that the Jews had begun to observe when they were in Babylon.

1. Let’s look at the people’s question regarding ritualistic practices. In the Promised Land, or Palestine, as it was then known, the Bible tells us that some Jews were sent to Jerusalem “to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?”

2. Let’s look at God’s rejection of ritualistic practices. Zechariah writes, “Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying, Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?”

3. Let’s look at God’s requirement of pure religion. God’s message through Zechariah continues in verse 7. He says, “Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?”

God wants you to have a genuine, biblical, authentic relationship with Him. He wants you to have a heart that is truly in tune with His, so that when you pray, when you fast, when you worship, when you serve, you are doing it as unto Him. Because when you are doing it because you love God and want to please God, and not out of a sense of duty, that is when you will truly be blessed.