Religion or Relationship

Read: Matthew 6:5-18

When I was growing up, I always believed that prayer and fasting were things that you did when you needed something. I only prayed when I needed help or arrived at a time in the day when I usually prayed, most often before meals and at bedtime. I never really fasted until later in life, but the motivation was the same. Prayer and fasting were so much more about necessity or religiousness than they were about relationship. I will most likely spend the rest of my life fighting the idea of making sure we pray for our food because that’s what we’ve always done or not falling asleep without saying my prayers. What if the Lord comes back while I’m asleep?! Then there is fasting during lent because it is that time of year again, and I want to teach myself that I can do hard things, or maybe it would be healthier for me to cut this out of my diet or stop staring at my phone as much.

It’s in this passage in Matthew where we learn of the shift from religiousness to relationship. Jesus is saying, when you pray and when you fast, don’t do it to SEEM close to the Father, do it to BE close to the Father. It’s a shift from doing it for selfish reasons instead of praying or fasting because we want to know God deeper and more authentically than we have before. What about taking the time to thank God for the food because without His provision, I wouldn’t have it? And while we’re at it, whoever made the food, bless them too because the Lord knows how I cook. What about removing things out of my life that I’m dependent on because I know that it’s taking up space in my life that God wants to occupy? 

The shift from religion to relationship can be a hard one because the world teaches us all about religion, but the Father teaches us about relationship, through His Word and His Son, Jesus. The world teaches us that we must take care and fend for ourselves, but Jesus puts it very plainly in verse 8 and 18 that if you’re doing these things for the Father, you will be rewarded. You don’t have to take care of yourself, your Father has you.

Journal: What is something that you find yourself doing for religious purposes instead of to draw closer to God? 

Prayer: Ask God to help you make the shift from religiousness to relationship. Lay these areas of religious practices at His feet. Ask Him to help you break the chains of legalism in your life and create a rhythm of authentic relationship with Him.
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