Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9- Prayer Warrior

August 9, 2011

Scripture Readings:
Ezra 8:21-9:15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13;
Psalm 31:1-8; Proverbs 21:1-2

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. 
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ezra 8:21-9:15

When one first becomes a Christian it is easy to feel foolish as you pray.  You wonder if anyone is really hearing you.  You may think that perhaps you are fooling yourself into thinking that there is a greater Being who cares about you and your petty problems.  As we study the Word of God we find that prayer is an integral part of having a relationship with God.  The great personalities of Scripture rely heavily on communicating with God through prayer.  We see from Moses to Jesus that prayer is the vehicle through which one can change attitudes and conditions.  It is no surprise then that Ezra is a man of prayer.

As Ezra contemplates leading the remnant from Babylon to Jerusalem, Ezra is concerned for the safety of the group.  They will be going through territory known for having robbers and will be carrying large amounts of treasure.  Ezra is embarrassed to ask the king for protection because the whole journey has been set up to glorify the powerful God of Israel.  Ezra does what each person of faith must do when faced with a fearful situation.  He prays. Not only that, he asks his fellow travelers to fast and pray with him that God would give them a safe journey.  Ezra records in this book that God heard their prayers and gave them safe passage.

Being a learned scribe and scholar of the Book of the Law of Moses, you can imagine Ezra's horror when he gets to Jerusalem and discovers that the Israelites have intermarried with the local pagan people.  Not only that, they have begun to adopt the religious pagan practices of the land.  Ezra is distraught to find that the officials and religious leaders are some of the worst offenders.  Remember, it has been approximately 75 years since the first group of the remnant returned and built the Temple.  Ezra cries out, tears his robes, and pulls out his hair upon learning of Israel's sin.  Do you react to the sins in the modern Church in this way?

Ezra is once again brought to his knees at his situation.  Rather than judging this rebellious group, Ezra includes himself in the beautiful prayer of confession to God.  Here is an example of how to confess sin in prayer.  Ezra confesses:
  • I am ashamed.
  • Our sins are piled higher than our heads and go all the way to heaven.
  • Our history is a history of sin.
  • You have given a brief moment of grace, Lord.  A remnant has survived.
  • God has granted relief from slavery and allowed us to rebuild the Temple.
  • We have ignored your commands.
  • We are being punished because of our wickedness.
  • We are punished far less than we deserve.
  • We stand before you in guilt.
  • None of us can stand in your presence.
Have you ever confessed your own sin and the sins of your family, community, or nation in this way?  There is wisdom in honesty.  The truth of our condition in this fallen world is that we are sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God.  In I John 1:9 we are told,
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
This requires humility and honesty before God.  In order to fight the good fight we must develop our skill of prayer.  Being a prayer warrior is key to defeating our enemy, Satan, and living a victorious life.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Now we see that the church in Corinth is not living victoriously.  They are not overcome with sorrow when there is sin in their midst.  Quite the opposite is happening.  Apparently, Paul is having to correct the church in Corinth because within the body of believers is a man who is sleeping with his father's wife, which would be his mother!  Paul is appalled at this. He is shaking his head as to why they are not all mourning over this behavior with sorrow and shame.  Apparently, they do not have a man like Ezra among them.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that they have no reason to boast about their spirituality when this sort of behavior is going on.  The advice of Paul is to remove this person from the community.  The Christian community is not to abide with people who claim to be Christian, but are openly rebelling against God's principles about sexual purity.  Sexual immorality is not to be tolerated in the Church. As a matter of fact, Paul lists the following behaviors that are not to be tolerated in an unrepentant way:
  • sexual sin
  • greed
  • idol worship
  • abusiveness
  • drunkeness
  • swindling people out of money
Here is his definitive statement on this in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13,
"It isn't my responsibility to judge outsiders (non-Christians), but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.  God will judge those on the outside; but as Scripture say, 'You must remove the evil person from among you.'"

What do you make of all of this?  Do you feel the modern church is dealing with sin within the Church in this manner?  How could we as a group encourage repentance from sin?  Should we approach this like Ezra?

Psalm 31:1-8

David prays a psalm that Ezra might have used before his journey.  Prayer is the key to victory.

Proverbs 21:1-2

You may think that you are living your life correctly, but this proverb tells us that the Lord examines a person's heart.

What did you notice today?


Jubilee Gal
Kathy Fullerton

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