Because of various trials and circumstances surrounding our city, our neighborhood, and the Church, my family (along with others in our church) is setting this day apart for prayer and fasting. Providentially, during morning prayer today, both BCP lectionary readings for this morning involve prayer and fasting. Consequently, I couldn't keep myself from jotting down some of my thoughts about those Scripture passages.
Ezra leads the people with prayer and fasting (Ezra 8:21-36) because he understands that they are truly in danger on their journey back to the land of Israel, back to where God's House is to be rebuilt. As they seek the Lord diligently, He listens to their cry, and provides for them.
Likewise, the Psalmist fasts (Psa 69:10-11) and prays diligently (Psa 69:3) because he is truly in danger. His circumstances are different though. He is in danger day after day because of two things: (1) he manifests an outspoken trust in God throughout the public square, and (2) he makes foolish decisions sometimes. God's enemies exploit both to their advantage, and his shame. Those foolish faults are his own and are not hidden from the Lord (Psa 69:5-6). Yet through his example, we see that when he fasts and prays, the Lord still listens to his cries, and provides accordingly.
These examples not only describe the life and struggles of faith in ancient Israelite experience, but they also foreshadow the life and struggles of all God's children. Even when our fasting is turned into a reproach by our enemies, and society murmurs against us, making songs about us, mocking our trust in Him (Psa69:8-14), we need to remember that He is still listening to all those who seek Him.
He is listening to our cries because He understands our sorrow from first hand experience. He made us and He tabernacles among us. He suffered real afflictions of this world because of its foolishness and sin. He remembers what it's like to do good and yet still be mocked and murmured against for his decisions. Zeal for his Father's House consumed him (Psa 69:9; c.f. John 2:17). He understands the feeling of betrayal, and the reward one receives for wickedness (Psa 69:25; c.f. Acts 1:17-20; and Psa 69:22; c.f. Rom. 11:9-10). He lived with our weakness. He hungered and thirsted (Psa 69:21; c.f. Matt. 27:34-48). He lived daily in danger, want, and need.
Today, let's remember that He is still listening as one who deeply knows our frailty and needs. He is with us as we fast and pray. He tabernacles among us and makes room for us, listening to our cries and meeting our needs. He listens and cares because we need Him, and because He knows exactly how much we need Him.