We have become aware in recent years of the problems associated with consuming large quantities of refined foods. We see a push towards whole grains and less-refined sweetening options; but if you delve a bit deeper into the issue, you will see that it isn’t what is in the refined foods that is the problem; rather, it is what has been removed from them. Our bodies need that added nutrition that can only come from what has been refined out of our food.
As I crunched on my unrefined, whole-grain “miracle loaf” this morning, I began to think of the story of Ezra. In Ezra 9 we see that Ezra was made aware of the sins of the people, and even though he, himself, had not committed these sins, we still see him confessing, weeping, mourning, tearing his clothes, pulling out his hair and fasting (Ezra 9:3,4; 10:6). That’s how much Ezra cared about the people. That’s how much he loved God’s law.
What? You don’t see the connection between Ezra’s prayers and the white bread/whole grain quandry? I would ask you to stay with me a little longer…
The first few verses of Ezra 10 show that there was an immediate response to Ezra’s prayer: “a very large crowd of people from Israel–men, women, and children–gathered and wept bitterly with him…’We have been unfaithful to our God, for we have married these pagan women of the land. But in spite of this there is hope for Israel. Let us now make a covenant with our God to divorce our pagan wives and to send them away with their children. We will follow the advice given by you and by the others who respect the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law of God. Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action.'” (Ezra 10:1-4 NLT)
Ezra may have taken comfort in the response; yet we see that he wasn’t yet praising God for answering his prayers…“So Ezra stood up and demanded that…all the people of Israel swear that they would do as Shecaniah had said. And they all swore a solemn oath. Then Ezra left the front of the Temple of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib.” (Ezra 10:5,6a NLT). In fact, he continued mourning and fasting: “He spent the night there without eating or drinking anything. He was still in mourning because of the unfaithfulness of the returned exiles.” (Ezra 10:6b NLT)!
It makes me think about my prayers in general. I pray for people, yes; and I don’t pray just because I feel pressured to do so, either. I pray because God has placed His love for them in my heart. But do I truly love them the way God does? Am I following Ezra’s example?
I must adnut that as soon as I begin to see God at work in a situation, I am tempted to stop praying. I would likely never think of continuing to mourn and fast. Hey, most of the time I don’t even mourn and fast in the first place. And aren’t my prayers being answered without all the mourning and fasting? Isn’t God coming through anyway? Isn’t the rest between Him and the one(s) I’m praying for? Can’t I simply wash my hands of the rest of the situation? After all, if the one(s) I’m praying for decide to go against God at this stage, isn’t it their responsibility and not mine?
As I reread the above paragraph, I realize something vitally pathetic: I have become apathetic. Ezra, on the other hand, truly loved those people. He loved them enough to continue mourning and fasting in order to ensure that things would truly be set right between them and God. Hardly the apathy I see in my own prayers…
Please do not think I am being critical. I believe that every prayer we utter in love is powerful; but do you remember the white bread/whole grain quandry? It isn’t what’s in the white bread that is bad for us; it is that we truly need what has been taken out. If selfless love has been taken out of our prayers, then they have become “white bread prayers”. They aren’t bad prayers; but they could be so much more powerful if they were of the “whole grain” variety: if they were filled with selfless, Ezra-type love.
Think about it!
Anyone want a slice of fresh white bread?
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.