Scripture | Ezra 8:21
“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.”
Over the course of time, it seems that the idea and understanding of fasting and its effects have been largely misunderstood. Many modern day Christians believe that fasting is something that you do when you want to get something from God. “I’ll fast for 3 days about this house and I’m sure God will give it to me then,” some of us suggest. Or we’ll ask questions like, “I need God to heal my mother from cancer; How long do I need to fast to make that happen?” It’s an understandable notion that we want God to do things on our behalf; there’s no sin in requesting of the Lord. But I believe this is a good time to clear up the confusion surrounding the perception of what fasting is or isn’t.
Fasting is not a tool that makes God do anything. God cannot be controlled. Not even by a lifetime of fasting. Fasting is a means whereby we deny ourselves convenience, our human flesh is temporarily afflicted and we are made sensitive to the plan and will of God in our lives. When the nation of Israel was released out of captivity at the behest of Cyrus, king of Persia, to return home to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, Ezra called a fast for the journey. Here, Ezra reveals the needed motive of heart for fasting—“to seek of Him a right way for us.” He avoids concerning himself with fasting for God to approve his own way for himself but rather, he submits himself to God’s way for him and all that belongs to him. Fasting enables us to submit to the will of God for ‘the way’ in our lives.
Ezra supplicates three particular areas of his life during the fast and I believe each of them make up a blueprint of what we as believers ought to pray for as well. His purpose for fasting was that “we might afflict ourselves before our God to…”
1. …seek of Him a right way for us.
The “us” here was the leadership convoy that Ezra gathered for the journey. As believers and leaders of your lives, ask God to make a right way for your path and give you vision as a leader along the journey of your Christian walk.
2. …and for our little ones.
The little ones here in the text are the children—the Israelite heritage of the Lord. They represented the future and sustenance of the nation. During your period of fasting, pray that God would order the steps of not only your personal children, but the succession of this generation of children at large.
3. …and for all our substance.
The substance was everything that they had in their possession—all of their silver, gold, livestock and other assets. As you fast, be certain to ask God to make you sensitive to the way He wants you to manage and use your resources and possessions. Pray that His will would be done with the custodies that He’s entrusted you to manage.