EZRA 8:21-23: “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” 23 So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.”
OBSERVATION: Does fasting and prayer earn the favor of God? Sometimes we speak about spiritual disciplines as if they were works that we must do before the Lord will work on our behalf. If we do them, then God will grant His favor. If we don’t, then God will withhold His favor. Is this right? Absolutely not! If we approach the Lord with this mentality we are returning to “works” as a means of righteousness and we forsake the Grace of God. Is this what Ezra was doing? Absolutely not! Ezra was entering into fasting and prayer so that he could “remain” in the Grace and Favor of the Lord. This distinction is very important!
The Lord had already extended His Grace and Favor to Ezra. This was evident in the decree which King Artaxerxes gave him and those returning to Jerusalem to complete and beautify the Temple. It was evident in the provision which the King had also given Ezra and all those who were traveling with him. So what was the purpose of fasting and prayer? Ezra knew that the Lord had provided all of this favor and provision, and if he was going to be successful, if he was going to arrive in Jerusalem and fulfill the calling the Lord had placed upon his life, he needed to hear the voice of the Lord – each and every step of the way! Ezra called for fasting and prayer to “…seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.”
Ezra knew that he already abided in the favor and provision of the Lord. This was a work of God’s Grace. Yet, Ezra also knew that he had enemies along the way that would try to thwart the work of the Lord. The only way to both begin and finish the journey was to receive step by step guidance and protection from the Lord. This required humility and it required an open heart, mind, and most importantly an ear that was attentive to the Word of the Lord.
This is the purpose of fasting and prayer. The Lord has already declared His favor and provision for us in Jesus Christ! Paul proclaims – “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) Yet, this is not automatic, and it is not earned. It is received as we walk “after” the Spirit – “…that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4) And to walk after the Spirit we need to hear His voice – “…Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7). This is what Ezra and those with him were doing. This is he purpose of all of our spiritual disciplines – to hear and follow the voice of the Lord.
Lord, thank You for Your provision and favor that is proclaimed through Jesus Christ, and received only by grace through faith. Thank you that I don’t need to earn Your favor or provision – but simply enter in by hearing your voice and following Your path. Give me a heart, mind, and ear to hear the voice of Your Holy Spirit. Grant me grace so that by hearing Your voice I may walk in true humility and obedience. Let me enter into the rest of Your Favor and Provision today. In Jesus Name!