I’m following on the heels of my last post (being a leader that seems to have failed) about the book of Ezra. I now read about the author (Ezra) and him about to start the journey back to Jerusalem. It’s interesting because in Ezra 8:22, he said to the King that “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” But Ezra must have still been concerned (who wouldn’t? it was a 4 month journey!) for protection. So what did they do? (8:23):
We fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us ….. and he heard our prayer.
Sounds simple enough and I have definitely stopped to pray about some things, especially big things that are about to happen. But have I “earnestly” prayed about something for God to take care of? I read in my Life Application Study Bible (which rocks for someone that hasn’t really ever read the Bible before… like me) this note:
Their prayers and fasting prepared them spiritually and showed their dependence on God for protection; their faith that God was in control, and their affirmation that they were not strong enough to make the trip without him. Ezra knew God’s promises to protect his people, but he didn’t take them for granted. He also knew that God’s blessings are appropriated through prayer, so Ezra and the people humbled themselves by fasting and praying. Fasting humbled them because going without food was a reminder of their complete dependence on God. Fasting also gave them more time to pray and meditate on God. Too often we pray superficially. Serious prayer, by contrast, requires concentration. It puts us in touch with God’s will and can really change us. Without serious prayer, we reduce God to a quick-service pharmacist with painkillers for our every ailment.
I pray that God can show me what means to “earnestly” pray – to seriously concentrate on the prayers – and to understand the purpose of fasting – and the times when it is appropriate.