Esther and all the Jewish people needed a breakthrough as they faced the significant threat of annihilation. Esther needed an audience with the King, to overcome a deadly enemy, and to have the King’s support to save the Jewish people.
Facing this crisis Esther called the Jewish people to fast for three days saying, When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:15–16). Fasting is a special way of praying, where you do not eat food as part of disciplined focus on prayer. Fasting is ceasing eating in order to pray. Prayer is the hinge on which this story turns. Prayer turns the tide of history.
Xerxes was a powerful and dangerous man. One ancient historian wrote of king Xerxes, saying he was … an ambitious and ruthless ruler, a brilliant warrior and a jealous lover. Haman, his most trusted and powerful advisor was also a very dangerous man, he had arranged for the extermination of all Jewish people in the kingdom. To save her people, Esther would have to convince king Xerxes that Haman, his most trusted and powerful advisor, had acted against the Kings interests. Only the king could remove Haman from power and enact laws to protect the Jewish people. In this difficult situation Esther wisely called people to fast. In answer to all their prayers Esther was granted permission to speak to the king.
The way Esther makes requests of the king, can help us learn how we can make requests to Jesus our God and King. “‘If it pleases the king,’ she said, ‘and if he regards me with favour and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, … (Esther 8:5)
One of the first issues we face in prayer is to think about our right to appear in God’s court and make prayer requests. If appearing before king Xerxes uninvited meant death, what makes us think we can simply rush into the presence of God, the King of kings, to make our request of him? The answer to this is found in Jesus who invites us into God’s presence (Ephesians 2:18).
What we request in prayer should be pleasing God and the right thing to do. … find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10, James 4:3)
Prayer flows from our relationship with God. Prayer can never be just reciting words in the right way like a formula or magic spell.
Jesus grew … in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:52). We need to live our lives in such a way that we grow in favour with God.
Thinking about what pleases God, what is right, how to grow in favour with God enables us to know what we should do to live our lives in prayerful relationship with God. This doesn’t guarantee God will answer our prayers just as we want, but it does mean our lives are more in tune with God and we are more likely to pray breakthrough prayers God is willing to answer.
How do you pray?
When do you pray?
Why do you pray?
Rev John Malcolm