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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  - Esther 4:16

She’d been in turmoil for days.  Her stomach was in knots.  Her family and friends were in despair…they were on the verge of genocide.  An evil man had desired the annihilation of all the Hebrew people; through political cunning, he had legislated a governmental policy of ethnic cleansing.  For the time being she was safe, but none of her dearest relations were. 

Their world was about to end.

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Ironically, she was literally the only person in the world who could make a difference in this situation.  There was a slight chance that she could use her leverage with the king in order to save her people.  He was actually her husband!  He himself had sanctioned this violence, and she thus stood on the edge of a precipice.  She could ask her husband to intervene; however, in doing so, she risked the wrath of that volatile man and she would expose herself as one of the oppressed peoples.

Her cousin and guardian had changed his tactic with her.  Originally, when she became queen, he urged her to hide her identity and deny her faith.   The utter desperation of the situation had caused him to reverse course—he begged her to intervene with her husband, the king, on the behalf of their people.  He realized that she was their only hope of rescue; he, along with everyone else they loved, would be killed if she did not risk her own life.

In that moment, the most beautiful and most powerful woman in the Persian Empire, Queen Esther, committed herself to approaching the king without being called on—an  illegal act deemed worthy of death—so that her people might live.  And she urged her cousin, Mordecai, and all of the people of God to do the only thing that they could.  They should all, young and old, fast and seek the Lord.  This action, fasting to seek God’s face, was their default move in pleading for the Lord’s mercy.  Esther recognized that mercy is the Lord’s alone to distribute and that He might withhold it from her in this situation—if she were to perish, she would perish.  But she would pursue Him with all she had.

The Church may not seem to be in as blatantly precarious a situation as the one that the Hebrew people experienced in the book of Esther.  However, we should not be naïve.  This is a dark and dangerous time in the life of the People of God around the globe.  How should we respond?  May Esther instruct us well.  We should fast and seek the Lord.  God has placed us here for just such a time.

Jim Black
Ministry Director at Columbia