Ezra 8:22-23 -For I was ashamed to request troops and horsemen from the king to protect us from the enemy along the way, because we had told the king, “The hand of our God is favorable toward all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who abandon (turn away from) Him.” So we fasted and sought [help from] our God concerning this [matter], and He heard our plea.” AMP
At the beginning of the year, many churches take time to do extended fasting. Our church is right there with them. On yesterday, I had to preach on fasting and prayer, and as I sought the Lord, His word to me was that fasting is “serious business!” Now technically, we all know that already, but in reality we may not fast and pray as if it is serious business.
Ezra understood the power of fasting and prayer. He was leading a group of Israelites from Babylon back to Jerusalem. The king had given him much favor and many possessions for his travel and the work in Jerusalem. He had also given him the artifacts that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple. So Ezra had a lot of people in his care and much wealth.
When it was time to leave, Ezra said that he was embarrassed to ask the king for an escort to protect them from bandits along the way. After all, he had told the king that His God knows how to look after His people! That’s why he said that he felt as if he couldn’t ask the king’s help in getting safely to Jerusalem. So he did what he knew to do, he called a fast and they prayed. And God heard.
This was serious business. After his testimony to the goodness of God, he needed to act on his faith and trust that God would be faithful! I am pretty sure that no one was sneaking off to get food to eat or to socialize during this time. Every one knew the seriousness of the hour and everyone got involved in the fast!
This reminds me of Nineveh. In the book of Jonah, Jonah was upset that God asked him to go warn the city of Nineveh that He would destroy them in 40 days. So he took off and ended up in the belly of a great fish. (I believe it was last summer that I learned of a whale shark that grows to the size of school bus and doesn’t eat meat. I wondered if that was the offspring of Jonah’s whale). Anyway, when Jonah was free again, he went to Nineveh as instructed. As soon as the people heard the proclamation, they began fasting. And when the king heard, he decreed that not only were the people to fast, but the animals and children as well. These people were not the children of God, but the king thought that if they fasted and repented that maybe God wouldn’t destroy them. That got God’s attention and He abandoned His plans to destroy the city.
What do you do when you are in a tight place? Do you automatically think it’s time to fast? A lot of the time I do, but sometimes it doesn’t cross my mind. I just react in my flesh. I whine, I complain, and I even become frustrated having to fight discouragement. One would think that if I know the solution that works that I would always apply it. But I don’t! How about you? Do you automatically fast and pray when difficulty arises? Do you think of God coming through or how you can figure this out? Do you cry out to God with your whole heart knowing that the answer you need is in Him? Well, I can assure you that I have missed it to! If the ungodly can fast and pray and see God move, surely His children can!
This year I plan to do so much better in trusting Him. I plan to spend much more time fasting and praying this year than I have in quite some time. Not only for the difficult times or when I have to preach, but for situations that wont’ change but need to change. For attitudes and thinking that cause His heart to hurt. For people I know who need to be saved, or healed, or set free. Yep, this year will find me seeking God as if I know that things are serious and fasting and praying is serious business! I invite you to do the same. Wonderful Jesus!