21 February. Thursday in the First Week of Lent
Esther 4:29ff. Queen Esther’s urgent, desperate prayer in time of crisis.
Matthew 7:7ff. “Ask, and it will be given you!” – Jesus teaches prayer.
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.”
The book of Esther exemplifies and so establishes the promise of Jesus: ask and you shall receive. God heard her prayer and acted to save the people of Israel from annihilation. It is true that morally Esther had little choice but to present herself before the Persian king though it could cost her life. To do nothing would mean sitting safely in an ivory tower while her own people were destroyed – and live with the guilt that she might have saved them or shared in their martyrdom. There are occasions in many a life when heroic action is required. Perhaps no one else will understand, but a decision must be made. Esther prays: “Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.” Prayer like this is bound to be heard, just because we are in touch with the depths that support all things, with the Creator whose loving plan called us into life and who alone knows the secret of our future.
Such prayers again will be answered, far beyond our best hopes, because we place no conditions on what God can accomplish within us. “Would one of you hand their child a stone if the child asks for bread? “ asks Jesus, and he adds, “If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to anyone who asks him?” Prayer is always a matter of hope. God may not respond with a physical miracle but with a miracle of grace to cope with whatever lifes is asking of us at that time.
Prayer is not irrational, even though it reaches beyond the rational possibilities of natural cause and effect. It is founded upon 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, O Lord. Show yourself in the time of distress – for I have no one but you, O Lord.”