01 March. Thursday of the First Week of Lent
Esther 4:29ff. Queen Esther’s urgent prayer wins God’s help in time of danger and crisis.
Matthew 7:7ff. “Ask, and it will be given you!” – Jesus teaches prayer.
Esther’s Prayer amid Stress
Esther’s story exemplifies the promise of Jesus: Ask and you shall receive. God heard her prayer and acted to save his chosen people, Israel, at a time of critical stress. In her people’s time of need, Esther had little choice but to risk going to the Persian king on their behalf. She knew that the initiative could cost her life, yet to do nothing, and hide in her ivory tower while her people were destroyed, would leave her haunted with guilt. There are occasions in many a life when heroic action is called for.
Esther prayed: “My Lord, our king, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.” Times such as these lead to experiences of heightened prayer. Fantasies of ambition, selfish motivations, reliance upon wit and diplomacy and half-truths – all such contaminating elements are swept from our memory. Every crutch is taken away, and if we are to stand, it will be through God’s strength alone.
Prayer at such times is bound to be heard, because we are in touch with the best and deepest part of ourselves, with the loving Creator whose plan called us into life and who alone knows the secret of our future. We must place no conditions on what God can accomplish in us. “Which of you would hand their child a stone if the child asks for bread?” Prayer is always a scary matter when we do not know the outcome.
Prayer is not irrational, even if reaching beyond the rational possibilities of human life. It is based on the memory of God’s great redemptive acts for Israel. Esther prayed: “You, O Lord, chose our ancestors and fulfilled all your promises to them. Be mindful of us now, O Lord, in the time of our distress.”
First Reading: Esther 4:29-42
Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand. Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our ancestors from among all their forebears, for an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.
Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. But save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord, who have knowledge of all things.”
Gospel: Matthew 7:7-12
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”