There are times when I take prayer too lightly. How many times have I prayed without thinking about what I am doing? …And just what am I doing? If I believe the Bible then prayer is communication with the creator of all things. Do I treat my prayers like that? In Luke chapter 11 Jesus’ disciples ask him how to pray and Jesus gave them what I was taught to call ‘The Lord’s prayer’. As I have studied the Bible, it is amazing what God has chosen to reveal to me in this portion of scripture. Matthew isn’t silent on this either, in Matthew 6:5-18 we read about prayer and fasting including ‘The Lord’s prayer’. Like Luke, Matthew 7:7-11 covers persistence in asking, seeking and knocking. Jesus goes on to imply that God gives good gifts to his children like any parent would. In Luke, it says God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. If we take the example of Christ, when he was addressed as ‘good’ and countered with the statement that there was none good but God… Jesus is saying the same thing in both Matthew and Luke – God will give Himself (the Holy Spirit) to those who ask. Shouldn’t that change my prayer life? If I knew that I knew that I knew that God was listening… would I pray differently?
Esther paints us an interesting picture of going before the king. In that day and age, one did not appear before the king unless summoned. To do so, even for the bride of the king, would mean death – unless the king were to grant you a pardon. Enter Esther. Through the hand of God she has become the king’s new wife, and in a series of events involving her uncle (Mordecai), she has been asked to plead the case of the Jewish people before the king. To prepare to approach the king and find favor with him, Esther asks that all of her fellow Jews would join her in fasting for three days and nights. Just prior to entering into the king’s chamber, Esther put on her royal robes, and entered the inner courts where she could be seen by the king and awaited his response. We should all be familiar with the story – if not, please give it a read, it's a short book. Anyway, Esther is granted an audience, by first being offered a pardon and then she requests an intimate opportunity with the king where she will request another intimate opportunity, just prior to getting to the point. There are some details here, that I think speak directly to me about prayer.
First is the need. Esther needs to seek an audience with the king on behalf of her people because they have been condemned to death. I hope the hairs on your arms just stood up. What does the Bible say about our condition prior to salvation and our destination without Jesus? That’s right… our people (humanity) has been sentenced to death.
Next is position: Esther wasn’t royalty, but because of her marriage became a queen. Esther knew her position (was humble), even as a queen, she knew she could face death for approaching the king uninvited. We started of as common, but through Christ, we have become something else – Christ’s bride. (I just know some of you men are squirming with this) but as His bride, we too may approach the throne. There is a difference here – we have been invited to approach the throne through the pardon given to all of us through Christ – but that doesn’t mean we get to take it lightly – for it is a death sentence to approach the throne without the pardon.
Leading to preparation: In the case of Esther, she, her handmaids, and her people all fasted for three days to prepare. Even after the fasting, Esther dressed herself in her royal robes prior to entering the inner court. Next she waited for the king to acknowledge her and extend the pardon. Once again, there are several pictures for us to glean from. One, denying the carnal, and then clothing oneself in royal robes. In the new testament, we are commanded to put on Christ. It is said that he takes our soiled garments, and that we put on His robes of righteousness. We are told to boldly enter into the most holy place because of the covering of Christ. The waiting for the king to acknowledge us is over – because of Christ. God acknowledged Christ and put Him above everything so that He is preeminent in all things. Christ is our pardon, and our identity before the throne.
Finally: Esther invited the king to come and spend time with her (in an intimate setting) where she would later make her true request known. God desires us to spend time with Him. He showed us a picture of this while on Earth by calling the disciples and then living with them for three and a half years. He ate with them and taught them and comforted them and challenged them. His Holy Spirit is still doing those things today. Jesus in scripture tells us that God knows what we need before we ask him, but does that negate our responsibility to ask? Jesus still spoke with the disciples – even though he knew what they were thinking. In fact, in several places he spoke with people despite knowing what they were thinking. Jesus invites us, through Himself to come into the very presence of the living God. We are not outside the gates, and we are not condemned to die. We are allowed access and encouraged to be intimate with our God all the time. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 that we should pray without ceasing… be in constant dialogue with God.
In conclusion: Look around. Everyone you have ever met and will ever likely meet has been condemned to die because of sin. Your people are going to be annihilated. Who is interceding on their behalf? Who is approaching the king and asking for his favor in their lives? Who is praying for them? For such a time as this – it should be us! We were put here at this time to intercede on their behalf. We have become the bride of Christ, clothing ourselves in Him to approach the king of all and make petitions on their behalf. After all, what is the main difference between the saved and unsaved? In the context of prayer, God hears all, but is only listening to the prayers of those who are not his enemies. We have been given an awesome responsibility, I hope we are not taking it lightly.