Fasting and Prayer: A 10 Week Bible Study, Week 3
The following devotional Bible study is based on our book Fast Friends: The Amazing Power of Friendship, Fasting and Prayer, available at Amazon.com (http://ow.ly/22bvzuL). While we are not theologians, we are students of the Bible and followers of Jesus Christ. We are two average women who want more of Jesus, and we have made the sacrifice to pray and fast together one day a week—a journey we share in much more detail in our book. We see an important link between fasting and prayer, and we want you to see that too through a personal study of God’s word. Although there is no biblical command to fast and pray, there are certainly reports in scripture showing God’s people engaged in these spiritual disciplines. We are offering you a free ten-week downloadable Bible study for your research into fasting and prayer.
Followers of Jesus are all charged with this message from scripture: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB). If you are in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth of God’s word. For that reason, we will share the Bible stories, their location in scripture, and a few questions to spur you on to your own study. We will not expound on the Bible’s accounts. Instead, we will leave you to wrestle with your own findings and seek the Lord for answers. If you will commit to this process, you will be fulfilling 2 Timothy 2:15, becoming a student of the truth. Our hope is that this process will bring you into such closeness with God that you will truly learn what it means to have Jesus as your first love. We are praying for you.
Ezra and Two Fasts
In preparation for this study please read Ezra 7-10
Who was Ezra? What were his duties and his strong points?
Whose hand was upon Ezra? Why do you think Ezra had such favor?
Ezra was a scribe, a priest and a man who knew God’s word and obeyed it. God’s hand was on Ezra because he studied and lived out the word of God. He also shared and taught what he learned so that others would apply the Holy Scriptures to their lives. Wouldn’t we all like the favor of having God’s hand on all that we touch for His glory? Ezra is a great role model to follow as we seek to make a difference in this world for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ezra was a passionate leader who led the second group of exiles to Judah and Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes rolled out the red carpet for Ezra to do this. Let’s take a look at the preparation, the journey to Jerusalem and what Ezra discovered about the people when he arrived. Especially take note of the two fasts and Ezra’s reasons for them.
1. Read the letter King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra in chapter 7:11-26.
a. Verses 13-17: Name the things that the King gave to Ezra to take to Jerusalem. What was he to use them for?
b. Verses 18-20: What did the King say Ezra could do with any left-over gold and silver? In verse 20, where could Ezra take things from if he had more need?
c. What was the King afraid of in verse 23? *Note that the King calls the Lord “your God”. Even though he did not refer to Him as his God, the King had a healthy respect and fear of the God of heaven.
d. Verses 25-26: What did the King tell Ezra to teach everyone? What did the King say should befall them if they did not obey?
e. What was Ezra’s response to God in verses 27-28? Because the hand of the Lord was upon Ezra, how did that affect the way he led the people?
2. Chapter 8:15-23 Where did Ezra and the people camp? For how long?
3. In verse 21 what did Ezra declare and why?
4. In verse 22 what was Ezra’s reason for not wanting to ask the king for protection?
Ezra was a faithful mouthpiece for his God. He shared with the King how mighty his God was. As Ezra camped he looked around at the people, the children and the expensive items they were carrying to Jerusalem. He knew there may be enemies along the way and there could be an attack. Ezra didn’t want the King to think that he had lost trust in God, so he did what we should always do in the first place, depend fully and completely on our Lord by petitioning Him.
5. Read verse 8:23. Memorize this short verse and use it to encourage you when you are fasting.
6. Read 8:31-32 how did God answer the fasting and prayer of Ezra and the people?
7. In chapter 9:1-2 what was Ezra told about the behavior of the people of Israel? What was his reaction in verses 3-4?
8. In 9:5-15 what do you notice about Ezra’s prayer in regards to where he lays blame? Do you find it interesting that Ezra’s prayer stated as “our” sins? Please read 2 Chronicles 7:14. As the church we all need to be praying for our country that there will be a turning from sin and healing for our land.
9. Chapter 10 holds the resolution to the sin of the people and it is a tough pill to swallow for some. In 10:1-4 what is the solution they decide on?
10. What does Ezra continue to do in verse 6 because of the sin of Israel?
11. The people confessed and made a vow to right the wrong done. Read 10:18-44. All of these people paid a price for their sin. Do you think there are always consequences to sin? God forgives us when we ask, but often the consequences are set in motion as a natural result of our choice to disobey.
12. What are the two reasons for fasting we see in Ezra chapters 7-10?
God has given us examples in scripture so that we can learn His truth and His ways. His word is a blueprint for our lives. It shows us how to walk with Him and live a life that points others to Him. Ezra knew God’s word, obeyed it and taught it to others all while living an upright life before Him. We would do well to follow his example not only in prayer and fasting but in his complete dedication to God.