|Theme: A Prayer to Uphold God’s Honor
|Focus on: Ezra
|Reading Portion(s): Ezra 7 & 8.|
|– Important Background Information|
|– Helps you find strength in God|
|What this article teaches you|
|This kind of prayer can occur in the lives of those believers who constantly interact with unbelievers. In the course of their daily talks and conversations the believers might tell others about the power of God. Some will willingly listen to what they say. But they will also be watching us closely to see some evidence of God’s power in our lives.
It is here that the prayer to uphold God’s honor comes to play. In some situations there are things that can be normally done relying on unbelievers who are favorably disposed towards us. But if we have told them of God’s power it would be good to seek God in prayer with fasting. This is to ensure God’s protection and power for us in the situation that we are facing then. Then God will answer us. Thus we will able to demonstrate before others that God is gracious to those who seek Him.
The people of Judah were carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. They remained there in this condition for a long time. Many decades later the Persian kings overthrew the Babylonians and began to rule. They showed favor to the Jewish people and from the time of King Cyrus they were allowed to return and rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. Though this rebuilding faced much opposition God’s grace was upon the people and they finished the work.
After all this work was done there remained yet another important work to be done. It was another kind of rebuilding. This rebuilding was of the spiritual life of the Israelites which were totally disrupted during their captivity and exile. Along with the temple their spiritual life had also been in ruins. They needed someone who knew the Law of God. And they found a perfect match for this need in Ezra who was then in the court of the Persian king Artaxerxes.
This Ezra was a teacher who was well versed in the Law of Moses which God had given. He studied the Scriptures diligently for he had devoted himself to the study of it. That means that he had made the study of the Scriptures the chief concern of his life. He not only studied it but also diligently observed the principles he found in it. Thus he was an example to others in obeying the Scriptures. So he was armed with knowledge and clothed with character because of his study and practice of the Word of God. Thus he qualified himself to teach the Word to all the people of Israel.
This Ezra was given permission by the king to return to Jerusalem. The permission was also extended to all the Israelites in his kingdom including priests and Levites. The king in his orders had said that Ezra was being sent to Jerusalem to seek the welfare of the temple of God according to the Law of God found in Ezra’s hands. The king also asked Ezra to take with him all the silver and gold that they had given freely as offerings. This was to be used for worship in the temple. The king also gave him permission to take anything else needed from the royal treasury. Ezra was given whatever he asked because God’s hand was upon him.
Ezra praised the Lord because of the favor shown to him by king and because God had put in the king’s heart the desire to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. Since God’s favor rested on him Ezra mustered courage and made preparations for their journey to Jerusalem. He gathered the needed priests and Levites under their family heads to return to Jerusalem.
Ezra gathered them all by the Ahava Canal. There he proclaimed a fast to humble themselves before God and to ask God for a safe journey. This was because it was a four month journey and there could be many dangers on the way. Yet Ezra had more than this simple reason for calling a fast to pray to God.
He was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect them on the journey from enemies. Ezra would not have been denied the request had he asked for soldiers because the king was favorable to their journey. But the problem was something different. God’s honor was at stake!
Now Ezra and the people had told the king that the gracious hand of God was on all who looked to him and His great anger was against all who forsook him. So they had proclaimed before the foreign king about the power of God. They had told him that God’s favor was upon those who sought Him. And naturally they now had to live up to what they said about their God.
Of course this does not mean that we should forgo the safety measures that we have to take on a daily basis and on a journey in particular. The situation here was a bit different. The exiles from Israel had told a king who now had reverence for their God that God was able to look after those who looked to Him for protection. Having made such a claim there now came the test to prove it in action. Therefore the honor of God was at stake.
Such situations can come in our lives too. We may have testified to people of other faiths about God’s power and His loving protection of His children when they look up to Him. Then there may arise situations where our testimony of God will be put to test. There may come some dangers that we have to face. The people to whom we have testified will be watching us to see whether we are going to depend on God or on human agencies to see us through. It is the time when God’s honor is at stake!
And it is the time to seek God’s protection through prayer and fasting. It would be simply foolhardiness to go ahead with our plans in such situations without prayer. God is not bound to protect us simply because we keep on saying boldly that He protects His children. But He shows favor to those who humble themselves in prayer. Those who do so are telling God that they are totally depending on Him for protection. They are telling God to uphold His honor before people of other faiths because they had already told them of His keeping and protecting power. Such prayers God hears and answers.
In Ezra’s case God heard their prayers and answered it. God protected them on the way. And they reached their destination safely. And God’s honor was upheld!