2Jewish men were marrying foreign women, and so God’s holy people had become contaminated. The leaders and officials were the chief offenders. 3When I heard this, I tore my clothes in despair, tore my hair and my beard, and sat down crushed with grief. 4I sat there grieving until the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered, and people began to gather round me—all those who were frightened because of what the God of Israel had said about the sins of those who had returned from exile.
5 When the time came for the evening sacrifice, I got up from where I had been grieving, and still wearing my torn clothes, I knelt in prayer and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God. 6I said, “O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up, high above our heads; they reach as high as the heavens. 7From the days of our ancestors until now, we, your people, have sinned greatly. Because of our sins we,…..
In earlier chapters of Ezra, he (Ezra) had prayed for him and his people, and had been convinced that God was blessing, because of answers that he saw to their prayers. In these highlighted verses, Ezra agonized over the leaders of his people (including the priests), ‘God’s holy people’ – as referenced in vs 2; that they had become contaminated because of their association with neighboring non-believers. In vs 3 and following, we can see where Ezra took a very personal stake in this whole problem, and our eyes are opened to what it really looks like when we sincerely ‘cry out to Jesus’ over a need that concerns us.
Way too often, we seem to pray about needs so casually and superficially. I wonder how much more effective our prayers would be if we always prayed with the urgency in which we pray when something is seriously wrong with a very close, loved one? Do you remember ever ‘crying out to Jesus‘ when things looked very desperate, like you would lose someone very near and important to you? What if you prayed with that sincerity every time you bowed before our God with a special request? Additionally, when you pray for family, church, community, state, country or world needs, do you place yourself in the middle of the reason for the problems, or do you distance yourself and pray for everyone else that may have impacted the problem? Ezra tore his clothes in agony over the problem. In vs 6 he placed himself in the middle of the fault, because he acknowledged that “our sins pile up” and “we, your people, have sinned greatly”. Friends, think about this: if you smoke, and your child winds up with cancer because of smoking, can you truly pray for the habit, or sin, of that child without taking responsibility for your promotion of that habit, or sin? Likewise, when you pray for your spiritual leaders, can you honestly pray for them without taking blame for certain spiritual responsibilities that you have faltered in, like supporting them continuously through prayer, encouragement and moral support? Ezra took full responsibility, along with his people for what was occurring around them. I believe that it is only when we place ourselves in middle of what is happening around us, and stop pointing fingers at every one else that we feel may be at fault, that God will truly bless us and our land. Will you join me in becoming more focused on the problem, so that we can be more earnest in our prayer life?
Lord Jesus, we have become a people of blame and pointing fingers at others. Please forgive me. Please forgive us, Your people, for not taking full responsibility for our actions. and lack thereof. Please humble us to recognize our own part in the problems that surround us and impact us each day, so that we may deal with self more than any blame we might attempt to put on others. You are the perfect One, please help us to recognize our lack thereof while still on planet earth around imperfect people. Please help us to align ourselves with You and Your perfect plan for us, and not with any earthly being or plan. We want Your likeness to shine through us, albeit in an imperfect world in which we live. For it is in the precious, loving and holy name of the only ‘perfect’ One, Jesus my Lord, that I pray, amen!