I’m sure that many of us pray for our country (no matter where we live). We pray that our leaders would hear the voice of God and obey. We pray for revival in our land. We pray for freedom from persecution. We pray for God to stay His hand of judgment so that we as a world can turn to Him fully. Many times though, I think we grow weary in well doing. We grow discouraged and throw our hands up, spiritually speaking, and give in to the whispers of Satan that the world’s time is up, so why pray? What difference would it make? We grow tired of standing in the gap when all we see around us is sin running rampant.
In the book of Ezra we see a remnant of a nation who had been torn apart by war and oppression. There were few among them that still served the one true God, but those few were given the task of rebuilding. It was a task too great for them and they knew it. Ezra led them to seek God’s face through fasting and prayer and God led them safely back home to begin the rebuilding process. Just as things were getting on track, a contingent of Israelites informed Ezra of a slight problem: sin was rampant in the camp. When he heard this, the Word tells us in Ezra 9:4, “Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel on account of the unfaithfulness of the exiles gathered to me, and I sat appalled until the evening offering.”
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We believe our family, our church, our nation is getting back on track and something horrendous breaks out. Unfaithfulness to God is discovered. We are left appalled, stifled, shocked. We were on such a “high” just moments before, but now we are stunned into silence. We realize things are not as they seem. We realize that God will not allow His Spirit to break forth until the sin is dealt with. What did Ezra do is this situation? What do we do in this situation?
Ezra 9:5-15 records a beautiful prayer of confession. Was Ezra himself guilty? Not in this, but he still prayed and mourned over the sin as if he himself had committed it. He did not view himself as better than those who had actually partaken of this sin; he viewed himself as part of the people, integrated so fully into their lives that He felt their sin as if it were his own. He didn’t just identify with them, He was them.
As I drive down the road and see the “Adult Only” bookstores, I must ask myself if I am in a spirit of condemnation, or do I pray and confess for my people? Do I confess the sin as if it were my own? Am I in mourning for the way in which I have allowed things to happen knowing that if I were who God called me to be that store would be out of business? No law would be needed to close it, lack of profit would deem it necessary.
As I see a woman so strung out on drugs that she cannot take care of her own children, do I sit in judgment, or do I truly realize that ‘but for the grace of God go I’? Do I simply let myself off the hook for praying a simple prayer, or like Ezra am I prostrated on my face before God realizing that these are not the sins of others, but the sins of my people? Am I standing in the gap for a group I have no connection with, or do I realize that as I pray, I pray as “we” just as Ezra did and not “they”.
Chapter 10 of the book of Ezra begins with Ezra still confessing, still weeping and still prostrated before the God of the universe. This is no five-minute cry session. He sees no way of escape from the judgment that is sure to come. He knows Israel has sinned and he does not know how to make things right. In verse two, he is reminded that the God of the universe always provides a way to make things right. There is always hope.
So, I ask you (and I ask myself) what do your prayers look like for your people? Do you realize that their sin is really your sin to mourn and confess? Do you realize that God has placed you here to intercede until His Spirit breaks forth?
Let’s let Ezra’s example penetrate our hearts and pray as he did. Let’s join him in mourning for the loss of innocence among our people. Let’s join him in prostrating ourselves before God in deep intercession for the sin among us. Let’s continue to pray until the unfaithfulness of God’s people turns back to faithfulness. Let’s call on God until, as Ezra, we see the hope of restoration. Let’s pray until we see the repentance of God’s people break forth and revival permeates our land, our world and our people.