Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:21-23)
Committed To The Power Of Prayer
The dangers of caravan travel were very real for Ezra and the Hebrews who desired to return to Jerusalem. Bedouin Arabs thrived on plundering caravans caught in the web of their attacks. Considering the amount of gold, silver, articles, and offerings for the house of God Ezra was carrying, the fear of attack was genuine. It was common to ask the king for an escort of soldiers and horsemen to protect the convoy of souls, but Ezra had boasted to the king there would be no need for such protection as the Lord God would protect them. It seems the reality of his boasting had caused some trepidation in the heart of Ezra as the plans became real and the journey fraught with danger. Ezra had boldly proclaimed to the king his confidence in the power of God to see them through.
As the caravan prepared to begin its long journey to Jerusalem, Ezra proclaimed a fast at the river of Ahava to entreat the Lord’s blessings. He understood the need for humility to take on such a monumental task of taking all those souls on a perilous journey without the king’s protection. Instead, he sought the Lord’s favor to humble the hearts of the people to seek from Him the right way and protect the little ones and all the possessions. Ezra boldly proclaimed his faith to the king, and now he must prove his faith to God. The people fasted. Entreaties were made to the Lord God. Faith lifted the prayers with fervent desire. Courage took hold of the hearts of the weak to be emboldened to seek the protection of the Lord. Trust flooded the souls to believe God would answer their prayers. And God answered their prayer.
The company of travelers left the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month for Jerusalem and arrived safely in the city with no attacks from marauding tribes. God’s mercy granted through the accompanying fasting and prayers proved the word of Ezra to the king that the Lord God was powerful and mighty to protect His people. The journey must have been filled with anticipation as each day, the Jews looked for the protection of God. They would have been mindful of the dangers lurking behind the mountains and the shadows of darkness. Their journey was an incredible show of faith when they left without an armed guard. Everyone would have ridiculed their refusal to accept the soldiers and horsemen from the king, but they set out with only the hand of God to protect them. Imagine the surprise to those who heard the caravan had made it safely to Jerusalem. Some would have said the people were lucky, and that was all. Others would have come to know the power of God because of the faith of Ezra.
Prayer is a powerful tool, but it requires the faith of the man to show belief in the power of prayer. Ezra could have asked for soldiers, but he had proclaimed to the king his undying faith in the power of God to deliver them. From a security view, going without soldiers was a risky and dangerous decision. It seemed to be an irresponsible and costly mistake. As the procession left, many people probably remarked how incredibly tragic the news of the caravan would be when they would be plundered and the people killed. When word came back the group arrived safely in Jerusalem, the stories were mixed as to how it happened. The king knew the God of Ezra was truly a great and powerful God.
The difficulty of prayer is to ask the favor of God and then let God take over. Often, prayer is given with a caveat in case the Lord cannot carry out the request. It is easy to tell God how to answer prayer. Ezra told the king the Lord would deliver them and asking for soldiers would deny his claim. Prayer must be made in bold language with the heart of faith willing to head out into the wilderness without soldiers and let God protect the caravan. It takes a committed heart to pray the prayer of faith. Ask God and then let Him do His work without telling Him how to do His work.