A Study in the Book of Esther : Lesson #3 Fasting and Prayer a Valuable Resource
(Esther 3 &4)
In this study we are going to look at what a valuable resource that fasting and prayer can be to us today as saved people. In Esther 3 we see that a man by the name of Haman is promoted above all the princes that were with him. Now the king had commanded that all that were in the king’s gate were to bow and give reverence unto Haman. Mordecai would not bow unto Haman and Haman despised Mordecai for it. Haman wanted to destroy Mordecai but when he found out that he was a Jew he decided he would not only destroy Mordecai but that he would destroy all of the Jews in the land also. So Haman conspired with the king and got permission to issue letters that all the Jews were to be destroyed on the 13th day of the 12th month.
When Mordecai heard of this plan he rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes and went into city and cried with a loud and bitter cry. Many of the Jews also fasted and lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther heard what Mordecai was doing and sent him clothes but he refused them. Then he sent her the letter and showed her what was going to happen unto the Jews. Mordecai then requested that Esther speak to the king on behalf of the Jews and see what she could do, but there was a problem. If anyone came before the king without being called to go in then they would be put to death and Esther had not been called for by the king for 30 days. So Esther decides to go before the king anyway and hope he extends his scepter toward her but note that she tells Mordecai to fast for three days and she will fast also.
Here is a good example of someone in the scripture being in need of help from God and fasting as a means of getting help or an answer from God. Today many people think that fasting is only for the Old Testament but fasting has great benefits and is an excellent resource for us today. Let us look at some principles and benefits of fasting. Note in Matthew 17:21 that Jesus tells his disciples that the kind of faith they were asking about comes only by prayer and fasting.
Two Types of Fasting :
The first type of fast is called a total fast. This would be the kind of fast that Esther and Mordecai were doing in this passage. This is a fast of not eating or drinking. This is a very serious type of fasting and should be done only for a short while.
The other type of fasting is a partial fast. This would be like fasting from food but drinking water or juices. This is the kind of fasting that most people do today. Even though you think you can’t make it without food you can go longer than you think without food but the body will not go very long without water.
Remember in your fasting to use common sense that is why God gives it to us. If you are on medication or are a diabetic then you will have to use some different guidelines for fasting and God understands this. I do not think that God intends for us to do ourselves great physical damage in the name of fasting.
Another great consideration when fasting is that it is not to be done as a show or to draw attention to yourself. Many people will brag of fasting in order to make people think that they are spiritual. Jesus addresses this in Matthew 6:16-18, and it is plain to see that he is against it. When we fast we are to carry on about our normal routine and do what has to be done but note promote the fact that we are fasting.
What does fasting do for us?
In answering this question we are going to look at Isaiah 58:1-9. In this passage Israel is fasting for the wrong reasons and God tells them this is why he is not answering their fast. Even though the fasting in this passage is being done wrong we can still see some things that it is supposed to do for us.
1) Fasting afflicts the soul (verse 3, 5)
- Fasting not only affects the flesh but it afflicts the soul. This is why God takes it so seriously and why it can be such a valuable resource. When we are willing to afflict our souls to get help or an answer from God he takes it very seriously.
2) Fasting should also affect our lifestyle (verse 3)
- One of the problems with Israel was that they were fasting but still enjoying the pleasures of everyday. This is one of the reasons that their fasts were not being noticed by God.
- When we are fasting and trying to get an answer from God we should do the normal routine of the day but the things that we do for fun or recreation should be replaced with prayer or studying the word of God while we are fasting.
3) Fasting can help us with Controversy (verse 4)
- God told Israel that they were fasting for strife and debate. If we are fasting properly to get help with God we will not have time to fight while we fast.
4) Fasting cause our voice to be heard on high (verse 4)
- Even though Israel voice was not being heard on high we see from verse 4 that one of the main goals of fasting is that God will hear us and answer our cries. Remember as we said under the first point God takes our fasting seriously especially when it is done in the right way with the right motives.
What are some of the benefits of fasting?
For these we will also look at Isaiah 58:1-9. When you study this passage you will not help but see that fasting can have both spiritual benefits and physical benefits.
1) Deliver us from wickedness (verse 6)
- When we are having trouble getting victory over a particular sin in our life fasting can be a very valuable resource for us as this verse states.
2) Undo heavy burdens (verse 6)
- Many times we carry burdens that the Lord would love to help us carry. These can be burdens for other or for us. Fasting can be a great way to get help from God concerning our burdens.
3) Give us light (verse 8)
- Fasting is a great way to get help with a problem or understanding for something that is troubling us. Many times when we see light used in this context in the word of God it is I reference to getting wisdom or understanding.
4) Physical benefits (verse 8)
- Whether we realize it or not fasting can help us physically just as it can spiritually. Fasting helps us to get toxins out of the body. Have you ever considered just how hard it is to think about the solution to a problem when you have just stuffed yourself?
There are many other benefits to fasting some are listed in these verses and some are not. But as we see in the case of Esther and Mordecai fasting works and we should use it when led by the Lord to do so.
A Study in the Book of Esther : Lesson #3 Handout
Fasting and Prayer a Valuable Resource (Esther 3 &4)
1) What is the response of many of the Jews in regards to Haman’s plan?
2) What does Esther tell Mordecai to due in regards to approaching the King on behalf of the Jews?
3) Why is this important for us today?
4) Give a reference for Jesus saying that there is power in prayer and fasting.
5) What are the two types of fasting?
6) What must we use if we are going to fast?
7) What does Matthew 6:16-18 tell us in regards to fasting?
8) From Isaiah 58:1-9 what are some of the things that fasting does?
9) From Isaiah 58:1-9 what are some of the benefits of fasting?