Ezra teaches how to pray when he intercedes on behalf of his people in Ezra, chapter nine.
For six months now, I have been studying Ezra. His writing style, his heart for God, his love for God’s Word, and his care for God’s people. Ezra models faithful obedience and steadfastness for God and his Word. He seeks and relies on God.
In addition to his godly character and pursuit of God, Ezra teaches us how to pray with boldness. He teaches gritty prayers.
Ezra has set himself to do the work Artaxerxes has given him.
He appoints magistrates and judges. They know the law and set about teaching it to those who do not. We know this for sure because of Ezra 7:10:
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”
In verses one and two, we learn the Israelites had taken foreign wives.
“After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, ‘The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.'”
By the way, Ezra did not point this out. Ezra was doing what he had set his heart to do, teaching the Bible. The officials came to him and confessed their sin.
Back in Exodus and Deuteronomy, God emphatically forbade intermarriage with these peoples.
Dearest Reader, lean in and hear me when I say this command to not intermarry with non-Israelites is not racism. Are you with me?
The specific reason God gave this command not to intermarry with the “ites” is that these people prostituted themselves with their gods. Not, the God. Likewise, the Israelites would follow suit. And they did.
It’s no different for us today. Believing we can skate the edge of sin and not cave to its enticement is futile. We cannot look at, partake of, read, or watch something without being tempted. In our sinful human self, it is unrealistic to believe we can.
However, we are influenced by who we are around, who we marry, who our friends are, the activities we participate in – all of it impacts us. When we flirt with sin, like the Israelites, we will get burned by its flame.
The thing is, our heavenly Father knows us well; therefore, He wants to protect us from ourselves and our bent to satisfy the flesh. So He gives guidance through His Word. We must heed His instruction.
Then and today, when we line ourselves up against the Word of God, we are lacking.
Our evil and our sin are exposed. That’s where the Israelites are in chapter nine — confronted with their sin upon hearing the Word.
In short, the light of God’s Word exposes sin.
Ezra steps in the gap and begins to intercede on behalf of the Israelites.
Ezra teaches us how to pray when he stands in the gap for his people.
What a beautiful picture of the posture of prayer.
As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God, saying:
O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today.
Ezra teaches us a posture of prayer as he continues:
But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery.
For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness.Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.
Closing his prayer, Ezra teaches us humility.
And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape?
O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”
What can we learn from Ezra’s prayer?
- We cannot flirt with sin and not be tempted.
- Sin causes sorrow and shame before a holy God.
- A picture of intercessory prayer.
- Ezra’s intercession points to our Intercessor, Jesus.
- I see a prayer warrior willing to stand in the gap for his people.
- I see my Savior standing in the gap for me.
There is a Savior, Jesus, who stands in the gap for me and you.
Jesus intercedes on our behalf with mercy and grace. Wherever Jesus meets us in our prayers, it is holy ground.
James M. Hamilton Jr in his Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah says this:
“Let me encourage you to learn from what Ezra does here. The sin of his people is brought to his attention, in response to which he confesses his sin and the sin of the people, and he rehearses the goodness of God. Notice how Ezra’a focus shifts from the faithlessness of the people to the faithfulness of God. When we feel terrible about our sin, we should confess it, then look to God. Look to Christ and celebrate His mercy and faithfulness to you. Proclaim His sufficiency. Worship and trust Him.”
Dearest Reader, let’s learn from Ezra.
Begin today, with a posture of humility, face down before the Lord praying bold and gritty prayers. Pouring out, confessing, repenting, affirming who God is.
When we do, our hearts shift from our faithlessness to God’s faithfulness. Then we can see a faithful steadfast God.
Share your thoughts in the comments below or send a private email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I am here to encourage you, equip you, and guide you as you redefine your wilderness.
Your Wilderness Guide,
* Catch up here.
*Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotes are in the English Standard Version from Bible.com
PS: My first book, Mornings In The Word, is available now. Order your copy today.
“There is no space to live well or love well, much less pursue the God who created us to be in fellowship with Him. We close the gap between what we need and what we want with more. Our spinning lives and broken hearts are empty while appearing full. We paste a smile on our face and tell anyone who asks we are okay while inside we are shattering a million different ways.” -Mornings In The Word