September 7, 2003
Text: Ezra 8:21-23; 6:3
Subject: Prayer and Fasting
Title: Let the House Be Built
I love to read stories about how children perceive God. Most of the time, they are so innocent. Jesus said concerning children, “”whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means inherit it.” I want to read you some letters written to pastors by children so you can get a glimpse of things through the eyes of children.
Dear Pastor, I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won’t be there.
Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody but He never met my sister.
Dear Pastor, I liked your sermon on Sunday. Especially when it was finished.
Dear Pastor, How does God know the good people from the bad people? Do you tell Him or does He read about it in the newspapers?
Dear Pastor, Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to California tomorrow.
Dear Pastor, Please say a prayer for our Little League team. We need God’s help or a new pitcher. Thank you
I thought those were quite cute and innocent. They show a lack of understanding on the part of kids. It may be that the innocence seen here is the kind of innocence that invokes the power of God in the lives of His people. It seems that the more we know and understand about the word of God, the less likely we become to accept it for what it is – the word of God! Today we look at Ezra and see how he understood the concepts of prayer and fasting. He was leading the second wave of captives back to Jerusalem with children and possessions. They would be an easy target for highway robbers. But Ezra knew what it would take to arrive safely. He turned to the Lord and placed all his trust in Him. As we try to ascertain what the word is saying to us today let’s first look at what King Cyrus says in 6:3, “Let the temple be rebuilt…”
I. Proclaiming a Fast.
A. What is the purpose of a fast? Ezra gives us a good answer to that. He says it is, “that we might humble ourselves before our God and seek from Him the right way…” The NIV translates “the right way” as “a safe journey”. It literally means a straight path free from obstructions. In other words, they are fasting in order to seek God’s face to know His will for their journey. Isaiah 58 informs us that fasting is not just about giving up food. It is about attitude. Verse 3, ‘Why have we fasted’, they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls and You take no notice?’ You see, Israel had wrong motives for fasting. It was all about them and not about the Lord. We’ve fasted – why didn’t You do something? Verse 6 the Lord says, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” Why couldn’t the disciples cast the demon out of the boy when his father brought him to them (Mark 9:14-29)? Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Fasting is not about self-will but God’s will. Now when we fast how do we know God’s will?