Praying Through the Bible project
Summary of the Prayers of Ezra
The prayers found in the book of Ezra take place during a unique time in the history of Israel: the King of Persia sends Ezra to lead a large group of Jews back to their homeland after decades of exile. They are to rebuild the Temple and restore their religious practices and worship.
In such a unique period, we might think the prayer would be so specific that they would offer us little to learn for our own prayers. But, like so many other prayers in the Bible, there are always new perspective and insights.
The surprise that a pagan king would offer prayers to God for believers tells us that God can act in ways that we might never expect (Ezra 1.3). Our prayers can be bold, out-of-the-box kinds of requests. It also tells us that God is concerned about the history of both believers and unbelievers, and we can pray for our own political and community leaders.
We also learn how to pray a prayer of praise and thanks when God answers our prayers. Sometimes we are better at asking for things than thanking Him for what he has given us—and the prayer in 3.11 is a good reminder.
The last four prayers in Ezra (and in fact, the rest of the book from chapter 6 on) have a lot to teach us about how to live faithfully when surrounded by an unbelieving culture. We can pray for our leaders (both church and political), and we can ask for guidance when our nation encourages or forces us to do things we believe are against the will of God (6.12; 7.27-28). In the midst of these last prayers, we find a prayer about fasting and how we can connect it to our prayer life (8.21).
In the last two prayers, we get to focus on prayers of confession—a type of prayer that we may not practice too often—especially not public confession, perhaps even rarer in today’s world (9.6-15; 10.1-11). Prayers of confession should be honest, leaving all excuses or reasons aside. We could even leave out asking for forgiveness—just confess! (Asking for mercy could come in a later prayer).
The last lesson we learn from these prayers is that, since our wrongdoing can have consequences beyond just ourselves and those we sinned against, we should pray both for those affected, and that we will babe the strength to avoid hurting others in the future.
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