In Ezra 8:21-23, Ezra the priest, the scribe proclaimed a fast for God’s people. The Persians had allowed the Israelites to return home. Ezra knew that the journey would be treacherous. They didn’t have a convoy of the king’s guard and there was a significant potential of assault by thieves and bandits along the way. So, why pray and fast? What’s the purpose of doing so?
For Ezra and the Israelites, the proclamation was due to the desperate situation in which the people found themselves and their need to show their dependence on God’s grace and kindness. Going without food put the people in a state of helplessness that helped them understand how they had to rely on His grace in every situation. This fast further aided them to implore the Lord for help with all their hearts. This is not to say that their fasting guaranteed God would respond favorably, for fasting is not done in hopes of binding the Lord to a certain course of action. Yet, they fasted and entreated the Lord. He answered their prayer.
Time and again, Scripture links prayer and fasting together. In fact, fasting is a discipline that is accompanied with fervent prayer, repentance, and grief (i.e. Judges 20:26, Daniel 9:3, Luke 2:37, Acts 13:2). It’s also right to engage in it when important decisions are to be made. Fasting reminds us that we are creatures and teaches us more of what it means to depend on our Creator and Lord for everything. God uses it to grow and build our self-control. It also helps us increase the focus and fervency of our prayers.
Like Ezra, we too are in a desperate situation today, yet of a different sort. We’re living through persecution that presses in hard and harder against the church, as well as events that have caused significant distress to us, our communities, state, and nation. We see the rise of sin, wickedness and its consequences. We well know the sin within our own hearts and lives. Therefore, we need to humble ourselves before God, sincerely repent of sin, and plead His mercies. We need to seek His blessing and a time of refreshing. We need to seek relief from circumstances, a relief that can be brought only by Divine decree. We need to renew our commitment to faithfully serving our Lord and King.
As many of you know, the General Assembly for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has called for a day of prayer and fasting this coming Saturday, August 21, 2021. It’s good and right for us to participate in this together as a body. Please do so as you are able and its medically safe for you.
Here are the details of the General Assembly’s call:
The 87th General Assembly determines to call for a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday, August 21, 2021, that the whole church may pray as one people, and call upon the Lord with one voice, that we might lament our distress and unworthiness before the Lord, confess our sin, and commit ourselves anew to the faithful service of the Lord our God (DPW V, A.4); that we humbly implore God to send seasons of refreshment, pour His Spirit of wisdom upon us, and draw multitudes to the hope of the gospel by granting faith and repentance unto life, and that the Stated Clerk is hereby requested to send correspondence to every presbytery of the OPC notifying them of this action.
1. Ezra proclaimed a fast “that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. . . . So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty” Ezra 8:21-23 (ESV).
2. The OPC’s Directory for Worship provides that “when great and notable calamities come upon or threaten the church, community, or nation, when judgment is deserved because of sin, when the people seek some special blessing from the Lord . . . it is fitting that the people of God engage in times of solemn prayer and fasting.” BCO DPW V, A.1.