I Promise

There is a prevailing misunderstanding about God’s obligation to give His children whatever they want. In our readings for today we see that God does invite us to seek Him and to make our requests known. But, what God gives us transcends our personal wants. God answers our prayers based on a far greater criteria. Read on…

Read The Prayer of Esther – *below (Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25 is found in the Greek translation of the Scriptures known as the Septuagint. It is not in the canonical Hebrew Scriptures and is considered Apocryphal.)

*Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the LORD. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from morning until evening, and said: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you,
for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I used to hear from the books of my forefathers
that you, O LORD, always free those who are pleasing to you (See Psalm 91:14, 145:20). Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O LORD, my God.

“And now, come to help me, an orphan. Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish. Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.”

The previous queen had been deposed for insubordination. King Ahasuerus conducted “auditions” to replace her. Esther, the beautiful Jewish orphan girl, caught the King’s eye. She was chosen by the King to replace Vashti as Queen of Persia.

Mordecai, the cousin of Esther and the one who had raised her, would not bow down to Haman, the King’s powerful adviser. This infuriated Haman. So, Haman hatched a plot to kill Mordecai and all of his people – the Jews. Esther, the new Queen, had been informed by Mordecai of Haman’s evil plot to exterminate the Jewish people (Esther 4). In her anguish, Esther cries out to the Lord. Her prayer reveals her utter dependence on God. She would go to the King, at great personal risk, and seek to foil Haman’s plans.

Queen Esther called the people to a three day fast in preparation for her visit to the King. To appear uninvited was to risk being put to death. As she approached the King, he was pleased to see her. Through two nights of feasting with the King and then with the King and Haman, Esther was able to turn the tables on the King’s evil right hand man. In the end, God delivered Mordecai and all of the Jewish people. What Haman intended for Mordecai, hanging on the gallows, was done to Haman. The Jewish people were saved from their enemies, their mourning was turned into gladness and their sorrows into wholeness. God had answered Esther’s prayer.

Those days of fasting and prayer, followed by the deliverance of the Jewish people, led to the festival of Purim being celebrated from that time forward.

Read Psalm 138:1-3, 7-8 – Can You Hear Me Now? 

Psalm 138 is a Todah (Thanksgiving) psalm. These psalms celebrated God’s deliverance and could be offered by the community or by individuals. Psalm 138 happens to be an “individual” Todah psalm. Here, the Psalmist bursts forth in worship, offering THANKS and praise at God’s holy temple. Why? Because, when he called out in prayer, the Lord heard him, answered him, and delivered him! This result is attributed to God’s kindness. But, it runs deeper than a kind act. God’s deliverance of the psalmist by His strong right hand is based on God keeping His promise. Hebrews 10:23 declares, “He who promised is faithful.” Any promise made by God is reliable because it is based on His incomparably great Name. To which promise might the Psalmist be referring? In Psalm 91:14 God says,  “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.” Therefore, with confidence, the Psalmist declares that God has saved him and that God will complete what He has begun by continuing to protect him. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

The Psalmist and Esther prayed to the Lord and God answered their prayers exactly as He had promised. What about our prayers? Read on…

Read Matthew 7:7-12 – Call Me!

In this short passage, Jesus continues His sermon on the mount by teaching His disciples that they have an open invitation to call upon the Lord. He compels them to approach God by asking, seeking and knocking. For those who ask, it will be given to them. Those who seek will find. And, those who knock, the door will be opened for them. Then, Jesus repeats the instructions. The one who asks will receive. The one who seeks will find. The one who knocks, the door will be opened. What was Jesus communicating to them?

There is a lesson to be learned by Jesus’ use of repetition.  This literary technique, called parallelism, means that this is very important. It adds an exclamation point to Jesus’ teaching. So, what is it we are to take from this?

First, let’s consider Jesus instruction, Ask, and you will receive”. Recognize what Jesus is not teaching. Some have interpreted this as saying that whatever we want, we can ask for it and God is bound to give it to us. James 4:3 undoes this interpretation. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”  So, if we are to receive, we must ask “aright.” A chapter earlier, Jesus had just taught the disciples the model prayer. He compelled them to pray, Thy will be done…” (Matthew 6:10). To ask and receive requires us to ask for God’s will to be done – not our own. We must submit to His agenda, not our own.

Second, Jesus tells them, “seek and you will find.” What are they to seek. Also, one chapter earlier (Matthew 6:33), Jesus teaches His followers to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  Again, we are directed away from seeking our way, and toward seeking a greater way – that of God’s Kingdom. We are oriented away from our own righteousness, and reoriented toward the righteousness of God. So, if we are seeking as God directs, we will find His Kingdom and His righteousness – offered to us through the Person and work of Jesus Christ. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Third, let’s conclude with, “knock and the door will be opened.” In the parallel passage to this in Luke 11, Jesus has just proceeded this teaching with a parable. A man goes to his neighbor late at night to borrow bread for an unexpected guest. At first the answer is no. But, after persistent knocking, the answer is yes. What is the lesson? We are to be persistent in prayer. Luke 18:1 states that we, ” …ought always to pray and not lose heart.” 

Jesus’ teaching on prayer offers us God’s promise. Asking, seeking and knocking will all lead to answered prayer. However, what we receive is not based on our pursuit of happiness, but rather God’s desire for us to be holy. His provision will always further His Kingdom’s cause and lead us toward sanctification. Earthly fathers, who have an evil nature, give their children good gifts. Surely, God, who knows all, will give what is best to His children.

As we follow the Pathway to the Passion, as we redouble our efforts in prayer, we can say with Esther and the Psalmist, God hears our prayers, answers our prayers and always keeps His promises. Thanks be to God!

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