8 Your Fasts and prayers
8:1 Your fasts should not be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays. You should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.
8:2 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.
8:3 Pray this three times each day.
How many of us fast a regular basis? Sure, some of us may fast for special occasions, but what about a weekly discipline? And not just once a week—twice a week! From what I can gather, this is the oldest reference to fasting on Wednesday and Friday. Of course, the fact that followers of Jesus would fast is evident from the Gospel of Matthew. And to my knowledge, the Eastern Orthodox are the only Christian tradition that still practices fasting this way (of course, I’m sure there are other groups—monastics and solitaries—who follow this practice, too). The reason given for fasting on Wednesday and Friday is in remembrance of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion, respectively.
In the Didache, this was part of the disciplined life, of what it meant to follow The Way of Jesus. And yet, there are so many of us today who don’t follow this practice. I wonder why?
And notice the prayer a new follower was instructed to pray three times a day—the Lord’s Prayer. There are several Christians traditions which follow daily prayer three times a day (although a lot of Western Protestant denominations don’t follow this practice).
Again, note the disciplined life that’s outlined in these short verses. A new follower of Jesus was expected to fast (at least) twice a week and pray (at least) three times a day. Nowadays, a lot of us can’t seem to find time to pray at all! We have come such a long way from this early community of disciplined followers, and I don’t mean in a good way.
May G_d grant us the strength and courage to step out in faith and action and seek a deeper discipline that resembles these first followers of The Way.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC