Ezra 8:21-23 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.”
The Blame Game.
It is when we blame God for things that He never said or promised.
When we run into adversity, we often seek the easy way out; the path of least resistance. Then, when things do not change, we get frustrated.
Now, frustration is the lack of peace in our lives.
We have lack of peace because we are not living in the Spirit.
We do not live in the Spirit, because we like the sin that keeps us from Him or we lack the desire to want to be clean, holy, pure and usable in the hands of Almighty God. We like where we’re at… we’ve grown comfortable.
Then, instead of owning up to the responsibility of where we are at and why, we blame others and ultimately – God.
But when the trial we are going through can only be solved or salvaged through God, we begin in earnest to seek Him. We pray as we have never prayed before. We begin to do good works; we become faithful to church and begin to read the Word of God.
Then, when the results we are seeking do not come fast enough, the frustration level intensifies.
It is at this juncture we must ask: “How badly do I need this answer from God?” or “How important is it that I get an answer from Him?”
Usually, it is when the situation reaches critical mass that we become serious about getting and answer from God.
Ezra, along with Nehemiah were given the task of rebuilding the city and the temple within. They had their hearts and their minds set that they were going to accomplish this no matter what it took; no matter what or who stood in their way.
Nehemiah summed it up in this statement:
Nehemiah 6:3 “And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”
They were going to let nothing stop them in the work they set out to do; they were determined.
I feel pangs of guilt rise up when I read of this account.
I am guilty of not praying as I should.
Guilty of not interceding on behalf of others.
Guilty of saying “I’ll pray for you” and not following through.
Guilty of not praying through until I receive an answer from God.
Guilty of not fasting and praying to cleanse myself and show God I am serious about getting an answer from Him.
All of us in some way or another have failed to follow through in this area of prayer.
In this simple example in our text today, we see a path and a pattern to receive from God.
Ezra had a sensitivity to his sin and the sin of those around him.
The numbing effect of leaving sin unconfessed only gets worse with time. We grow colder and more accepting of sin and sinners when we do not keep short accounts with God over our sin.
Moreover, Ezra saw the sins of others as sins he needed to confess as well.
Ezra 9:6 “And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens.”
Ezra knew that through fasting, he was preparing for the answer from God.
Through fasting, we go through stages.
First, we deny the most carnal of desires – our physical hunger. This is usually the battle we face on the first day of the fast. We deny ourselves food when the hunger pangs come and offer up our prayer when each mealtime comes.
Secondly, we fight the mental and emotional battle of rationalizing and reasoning away why we should stop the fast. We tell ourselves that we have done enough; God should accept what we give as acceptable.
Thirdly, we fight the spiritual battle as to why we are seeking God and an answer from Him. We hear the devilish statements; “God doesn’t care about you or your prayers.” “Why would God want to hear your prayers?” It is here, that we push through each of the attacks of our enemy to get an answer to that which we seek.
Bodily, on that third day, we experience a sense of euphoria. Our endorfins kick in as our bodies begin to feast on our fat stores. Mentally, we have more clarity. Spiritually, we are closer; more connected because instead of eating, we have replaced that time with seeking God’s face.
Often, we do not get answers to our prayers because we place expectations on what God should do to answer or how He should answer or when. Yielding to God the ability and opportunity to answer however He sees fit, relinquishes all expectation and then we await to see what God has prepared for us.
I have shared recently that my Dad had passed away last week.
Prior to his death, and as he languished from the effects of his stroke, we began to understand that he was not going to recover. The doctors confirmed that he was indeed dying. We had been praying for recovery, but now with the most certain news, our prayers began to change.
My heart ached over the struggles he faced; the pain he experienced and the daily decrease of his cognitive, communicative and motor skills. Our prayers began to focus on “God, please take him home and end this pain and suffering.” But the Holy Spirit guided me to pray more specifically.
I told God that we were at peace for my Dad to go home with Him, but, if through his languishing, you could use him still, we were okay with that. It was a hard prayer to pray. But, I knew that God has a purpose in everything and can use any situation and circumstance to bring others to Himself.
The part of prayer we often fail at is allowing God to answer in His time, His manner and for His glory. Relinquishing to God the answer He desires instead of bombarding God with prayers to do our will is not an easy thing. We feel if we pray more fervantly, more often, with crying and tears; we can convince God that what we want is good for us, right for Him and that He should accept that.
Fasting has always been a way for me to see more clearly what His will is for me and how I should pray accordingly. When I know that what I am praying for is His will; I can intensify the times that I pray, seek in what time He desires to answer, tell Him we will testify when He answers and ask that He be glorified throughout the whole process.
God answered our prayer for our Dad. It feels so much sweeter knowing we had not been selfish in how we prayed for him but also that our Dad is now enjoying the presence of God!