Read His Words Before Ours!
“Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me [. . .] After that, I will go to the king[.]’” (Esther 4:15-16)
Caught between the impending genocide of her people and a potentially deadly reception by the king should she speak on their behalf, Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, desperately need a miracle. And so, before Esther approaches the king, they fast and pray.
Yet, prayer and fasting don’t necessitate a miracle. We don’t manipulate God when we pray; instead, we rely on His good heart for us and declare our belief in His power.
So why do we keep praying and fasting?
The ultimate purpose of prayer and fasting is the restoration of our relationship with God. Prayer is an essential part of our spiritual lives. Just as none of us are exempt from the troubles of this world, none of us are exempt from the need to connect with, and hear from, the only One who has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Though the struggles that draw us to prayer and fasting may differ, we can all embrace these practices with a desire to empty our hearts of earthly things so the Lord will pour out His Spirit and satisfy our spiritual hunger.
Throughout the Bible, God’s people pray and fast together because they are seeking God’s help and direction. In the opening vignette of our study, we met Mordecai, who, together with other Jews in the land, “fasted, wept, and lamented, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:3) as an expression of their anguish over the order to kill every Jew. Their actions signified both their grief and their cries to the Lord to protect them from execution.
Again, we don’t manipulate God with prayer and fasting, but we allow Him to work in and around us as we surrender through humble prayer. Esther’s response to Mordecai’s plea for intervention demonstrated her belief that the will of the Lord would come to pass. Esther clearly understands that fasting will not guarantee her safety in her final words to her cousin, “I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) Her words hold equally strong conviction to do what is right and to trust the Lord for her fate.
The Lord is good and just indeed! He responds to prayer and fasting! He promises if His people will seek Him, they will find Him. (2 Chronicles 7:14-15, Jeremiah 29:13) When we fast and pray, we encounter Him in a different, higher way.
This truth resonates in the continuation of Esther’s story. After seeking God’s heart through prayer and fasting, Esther enacted a careful, thoughtful plan to approach King Xerxes and plead for her people. (Esther 5) By the Lord’s grace, she found favor with the king, and she and her people were spared. Through God’s intervention, the Jews were saved and not forsaken. How beautiful is the aroma of prayer and fasting to the Lord!
Similarly, in Ezra 8:21-23, the priest Ezra led Israelites returning home from exile into prayer and fasting to seek God’s presence and protection. “So we fasted and pleaded with our God about this, and He was receptive to our prayer.” (Ezra 8:23)
And finally, as an epitome of humility and faith before the Lord, Jesus fasted. He acknowledged God’s power and strength alone would enable Him to carry out the Father’s will. Matthew 4 describes how Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He was also tested by evil, but He overcame the temptation by the power of God dwelling within Him and relying on Scripture.
Jesus’ example demonstrates how prayer and fasting are powerful preparations for experiencing God deeply and outrageously!
From Jesus, we learn temptation and struggle may come, but if we are filled with God’s words and presence, we will overcome, just as Jesus did! Prayer and fasting are vital, as they bring us closer to God and remind us to trust Him.
From Mordecai, we learn we should not hesitate to engage in prayer and fasting.
When we see cries, pain, and injustice around us that are impossible for humans to resolve and only God can manage, we can turn to the One who is full of compassion and always capable! The Lord sees our faith, is delighted to hear from us, and is moving when we pray.
Let’s pray that the Lord will help us lead our people into prayer and fasting just as Mordecai did. Faith can rescue people when we come together!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!