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 4 (Praying Through the Bible #109)

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TEXT: Zechariah 7:8-14

8 And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying,

9 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.

12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.

13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:

14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

We are in a series of messages titled “Praying Through the Bible: A Series on Every Passage and Verse Regarding Prayer in the Bible.” The purpose of this series is to encourage and motivate you to pray to the God of the Bible. We highlighted each of these over 500 verses and passages in the Prayer Motivator Devotional Bible. So far, we have completed 108 messages in this series.

This is message #109 titled, God Wants Realness Not Ritual in Prayer and Fasting (Part 4)

Over the past three weeks we have looked at the issue of ritualism in our prayers and in other aspects of our spiritual lives which we all ought to be striving to avoid. The Methodist minister Samuel Chadwick said, “Truth without enthusiasm, morality without emotion, ritual without soul, are things Christ unsparingly condemned. Destitute of fire, they are nothing more than a godless philosophy, an ethical system, and a superstition.” God addressed the issue of ritualism with the Israelites who had instituted ritualistic fasts while they were in Exile. When the Jews returned from Exile, they wanted to know if they were supposed to continue keeping their man-made fasts. From God’s response through His prophet Zechariah, we are given three key insights into the roots of ritualism.

So far in this series…

1. We saw that ritualism begins when pure religion ends. God commanded the Israelites to “Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassion every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” These are all commands that we ought to obey. However, abiding by a set of rules, if your heart is not in it, is worthless to God. God wants our religious activity to be rooted in the heart and not in habit or obligation. God wants realness, not ritual, in our prayers, in our fasting, in our service, and in our worship.

2. We saw that ritualism deepens when rebellion is embraced. Verses 11 and 12 read, “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law.” The Jews before the Exile had refused to listen to God and His prophets and had continued in their rebellion. Some of us today do the same thing: we know there are things in our lives that we need to forsake and repent of, yet we refuse to do so. All the while, we keep up an outer religious facade. We continue observing rituals, but they really don’t mean anything to us or to God because we have embraced rebellion.

3. Ritualism results in separation from a righteous God. Finally, in verses 12 and 13, we see the result of ritual and rebellion. The Bible says, “therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts… It is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts.”

For many years, God threatened judgment on Israel. He begged them, pleaded with them, and warned them to turn back to Him — not just in their outward actions, but in their hearts. However, they did not take heed. Their hearts remained as stone — cold and unyielding to the mercy and grace of God. Finally, the judgment that God had promised came upon them, and when the children of Israel realized what had happened, it was too late.

Perhaps you can imagine hundreds and thousands of God’s people in chains and forced to march or ride nearly 1,000 miles from Israel to Babylon. Perhaps you can imagine them being assimilated into a strange culture with a different language, different customs, and pagan gods. Perhaps you can imagine them finally crying out to God in surrender and repentance. And, perhaps, you can imagine their despair and dismay when God would not hear their prayers.

That is what ritualism leads to. When we place form and function over faith, when we place pedantic platitudes over passionate prayer, God will eventually reject our offerings. He will turn His face from us as we have turned our faces from Him. He will stop hearing our prayers and accepting our fasts just as we have stopped hearing His word and obeying His commands.

Only when we return our hearts to God can we expect Him to hear our prayers. Only when we embrace pure religion and reject rebellion can we expect Him to honor our fasts. Only when we choose realness over ritual can we expect to receive His blessings.

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Now, if you are with us today, and you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, your first prayer needs to be what we call the Sinner’s Prayer. Please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…” This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

The good news is found in John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I now believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! I want to congratulate you on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door”. Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.