Ezra 7:27 “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.”
The “hand of God” is not always as obvious as we might wish, but it is an element of biblical faith revealed for our encouragement precisely when we are having trouble seeing how God is at work. God is sovereign, He is the supreme authority and all things are under His control. As we see in our text, even in the workings of His enemies the Lord accomplishes his will. Those who are spiritually discerning will frequently confirm this in their experience THROUGH PRAYER.
Judah had ceased to exist as an independent nation in 587 BC. In 458 BC, Ezra led a band of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. Some sixty years before, Zerubbabel had led a first group to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1–6). Ezra’s task (recounted in Ezra 7–10) is to rebuild the spiritual vitality of God’s people, a job too big to see through to completion without prayer.
Notice three ways that prayer helps us properly process the sovereign activity of God in our lives:
Prayer authorizes us with God’s sovereignty. (26)
By God’s sovereign intervention, Ezra had two emboldening gifts for this great work. The first is his anointing with heavenly authority from his relationship with God’s Word (v. 10). The second is his letter from the Persian king granting him all the earthly authority he needed for his calling from God (vv. 12-26). Wow! What authority God gave to an individual who was willing to practically have “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
Ultimately all of the powers that be are only in place with God’s permission. As Luther reminds us even “the devil is still God’s devil” and serves a purpose in God’s ultimate plan. What a prayerful response to the sovereign moving of God does is reminds us of who is truly on the throne of the universe and provides boldness where there was timidity. Without prayer, we tend to miss the infusion of long-term courage that God intends to provide when He get involved in our lives.
Prayer directs us with God’s sovereignty. (27)
Ezra’s response to the king’s decree shows what kind of man he was. He praised the Lord for what was being done under him. By calling Yahweh the God of our fathers he linked himself with the godly line that had been concerned with proper sacrificial worship. He also noted that God had given this idea to the king (put it into the king’s heart). Ezra added that the purpose of all this was to bring honor to the house of the Lord. The privileges granted by Artaxerxes were for God’s glory, not Ezra’s.
Without prayer, we tend to commandeer the entrance of God into our lives for our own benefit and profile. Whatever God chooses to do in your life has nothing to do with launching the proverbial “book tour” for self-aggrandization. To pray is to remember that God only gets involved in the affairs of man for His glory and purpose, not ours! Maybe the reason you tend to mishandle the miracles God has given to you is because you have forgotten that irrevocable truth. God’s sovereignty is not a commodity to monetize or manipulate! Don’t forget the following: with great power, comes great responsibility-responsibility that is too easily forgotten without sanctifying intercession.
Prayer multiplies us with God’s sovereignty. (28)
Ezra also said that God’s good favor was shown to him in front of all the king’s pagan advisers and officials. “Good favor” translate hesed, God’s covenantal love for His people. He felt the hand of God upon him as he gathered his team—a fellowship of God’s best—for the ministry that lay before them. Notice that it involved “them” not just “him.”
Too often we process the hand-of-God moments in isolation. What prayer does is bring the heaven-sent, tangible engagement of God into the corporate setting-where it is intended to be. God always begins with an individual, but He never stops there. He is a “that all the ends of the earth may know” kind of God. This rebuilding project that began with just Ezra and the Lord was much more than a one-person project. Who else is now praying to the one true, sovereign God because of how you have testified and manifested His palpable work in your life?
Ezra was mightily used by God because he prayerfully centered his life and leadership around the practical Lordship of Jehovah. Proverbs 21:1 reminds us, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Will you allow prayer to help you invite, process, and broadcast His sovereign activity in your spheres of influence?