OUR LESSON TITLE-FASTING AND PRAYER- based on Ezra the 8th chapter
The overall aim of the lesson: is that ALL OF US WOULD BE BETTER PREPARED FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.
Bible truth: as people journey through life, they pause to assess their strengths and weaknesses for reaching their destinations.
Memory Verse: Ezra 8:23- 23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
…The lens from which I taught the lesson is this- FASTING AND PRAYER HELPS US to successfully manage and negotiate Life’s various journeys. THIS IS REALLY MY “TAKEAWAY” or lesson learning outcome- SPIRITUAL FASTING AND PRAYER ARE REQUIRED PRACTICES TO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE LIFE’S JOURNEY.
The scriptures-Ezra 8:21-23
21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Light on the Word outline- there were two themes- 1) why Ezra declared a fast and 2) what happened after the fast.
1. Why Ezra declared a Fast
Ezra understood that the journey was not an easy one. While he declared what God could do, he realized that he needed help, he needed protection.
Every journey has a beginning, middle and an end. Often times it is the middle place where we sometimes get turned around or off track, so this proclamation of a fast by Ezra was his understanding that the people had to be and stay united as one. They had to understand what was at stake.
• THEY NEEDED SAFE Passage AGAINST ANY ENEMY THAT WOULD COME AGAINST THEM. He felt embarrassed to ask for military help because of what he had boldly declared before to the King about how powerful God was … but I like what the lesson says about Ezra’s reaction. Shame or no shame….
• He humbled himself by fasting and prayer because he understood what was at stake.
• He wanted Gods protection for all who traveled, the word even mentions for the little ones.
This was not the only time God’s People fasted and prayed for protection.
Comparative Analysis – use this method when possible, it keeps students engaged.
Compare and contrast the story from the lesson with the two stories below or use other stories. Compare similarities, contrast differences. This method will challenge the students to think, this type of analysis allows students to gain a better command of the word. And finally it provides clarity and understanding.
• 2 Chronicles 20- when Moab and Ammon came against Judah, Jehosaphat proclaimed a fast, God delivered them.
• How about Queen Esther- who was in the right place at the right time- the people of God were about to be destroyed, she too declared a fast… God delivered his people.
• In all of these instances, Gods people humbled themselves and sought his guidance and direction.
KEY LESSON QUESTIONS
Do we only fast in a crisis?
• There are biblical examples of different reasons for fasting: forgiveness of sin- Ahab, loved ones health- King- David
• Purposely live what I call a Fasted Lifestyle- This is explained a little later on
What is fasting?
To purposely afflict or chasten the soul, to refrain from food or water.
Absolute fast- no food or water- very short periods-3 day period-examples….the people of Nineveh when they faced destruction and then Queen Esther and the Jewish people when they faced destruction
Normal Fast- no food, drink water
Partial fast- Daniel fast
• Don’t fast for the wrong reasons- read Isaiah chapter 58, fasting without true repentance defeats the purpose
• We should never presume that any time a crisis arises and we decide to go on a 3 day fast that God will answer in the manner and in the timeframe that we want.
• Instead, we should fast because we love him, because we worship him, yes he does answer when we are in Crisis, but……..crisis fasting is not a quick fix.
The lesson leaning outcome needs to be emphasized when making the above point. ……….fasting coupled with prayer should be a normal part of our lives which enables us to manage and negotiate our many journeys.
So what is a “fasted lifestyle”-?
A fasted lifestyle in my opinion is fasting 3 to 4 days out of the week because we Love God. Teach your students to keep their fast days until “whatever time”, fast Sundays until after service sometimes. WHY DO WE NEED THIS?
Answer…….A constant diet of fasting and prayer is needed to hear from God.
Back to the lesson- Ezra declared a fast for divine protection, he and Gods people humbly submitted to God and waited for an answer.
Wait for God to provide the way.
Pray this Prayer
Father in the Name of Jesus, you alone knoweth the way that we take
On this day, we confess that we will acknowledge you in all of our ways. . Lord we will trust in you and not lean to our understanding Lead us in the everlasting way for your ways are higher than our ways and your thoughts higher than our thoughts….. Have your way in our lives Holy Ghost.
2. WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE FAST
VERSE 23- 23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
God answered their request
The lessons states that God wants to use situations like these to shew himself mighty, On behalf of those who love him and who heart is perfect toward him.
• They were released from captivity
• They were allowed to go home with all of their belongings and articles from the temple
• They had protection and nothing was lost
• The journey they took, God ordained every step
• Why, because as the lesson states, they prayed, they pleaded, they asked
• Follow Gods path
In the bible application in the lesson it says to set aside time of fasting and prayer for special situations.. where you know only God can deliver or supply the need. Let me again state that we should not presume that God will answer how we want or in the time frame we desire, remain humble.
These special situations are what I call “These Kinds” of situations- remember Ezra said-23 So we fasted and besought our God “for this”
Ask the class what is your for this or what is your these kinds?
Explain to the class Mark chapter 9: 20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.
25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.
26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.
27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?
29 And he said unto them, “This kind” can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
There will be many “This Kinds” or “For This” situations in your life’s Journey
TAKEAWAY or lesson learning outcome- SPIRITUAL FASTING AND PRAYER ARE REQUIRED PRACTICES TO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE LIFE’S JOURNEY.
• The story unfolds as Ezra is preparing to lead the exiles back home with precious articles. It was a journey with many challenges.
• While he had previously and boldly declared to the king that Yahweh would protect them, he humbled himself and declared a fast at the River Ahava so that God would be intreated of them.
GOD ANSWERED THEIR PRAYERS
We too must seek Gods guidance always.
The lesson AIM is that we will be better prepared for the journey of Life. If you teach junior high, high school or college age students, if they can get this concept in these early seasons of their lives imagine……. God has plans for them
The Late, Dr. Daniel Levinson, a noted Psychologist wrote two books based on lengthy studies- Seasons of man’s life and then he wrote Seasons of a woman’s life.
He spoke of the varied journeys men or women must master during specific seasons to be successful.
I submit to you that we as the saints of God will successfully manage and negotiate every season and the corresponding journeys within those seasons if we practice the following: loving one another- God is love, be willing to forgive, consistent prayer , consistent fasting, reading and studying the word and being a doer of the word.
(success is not equated with all good times and easy bed of roses)
Small testimony- This is a transparent moment as Eld Payton challenged us to be real with our students. One of my successful journeys was going from cancer diagnosis to being free from cancer –
During my season of illness- this included 3 surgeries- for 3 separate things during an 18 month period, with two surgeries during a seven week period. That was my season of illness/affliction. One of the smaller journeys within this season was radiation therapy which lasted 3 weeks, I chose an accelerated program.
To help me through this journey, I prayed , listened to healing scriptures but with the exception of one or 2 days, I fasted every day until noon or after during radiation treatment. I know some people may disapprove, but I didn’t disobey the medical experts, I did what I was supposed to do, but I felt that there were so many things going on in my life that I needed prayer and fasting to guide me through the journey through that process.
So this is just an example just like Ezra leading the people asking for Gods protection, I needed Gods protection, his guidance and his reassurance. A CONSTANT DIET OF FASTING AND PRAYER WILL HELP US MANAGE OUR MANY JOURNEYS.