Ezra 8:21-23—Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
When Ezra had gathered everyone for the journey, he proclaimed a fast. It was a time to humbly ask the LORD for His protection. He could have asked for armed guards, but he had already told the king that the gracious hand of God was on everyone who looks to Him. It would not be much of a testimony to turn around and ask for the strength of man after trying to share that with the king. Do we think like this? Do we remember what we have shared of the truth of our Lord with unbelievers and then carefully guard the testimony by being faithful to live in the demonstration of it? I’m afraid we water down our words by our actions more than we verify our words by our actions. I wonder if Ezra thought, “I put my foot in my mouth now! I’m going to have to make this trip with valuable possessions but without armed guards, because I told the king God’s hand was on us and against our enemies. We better pray!” We are not in the habit of dropping everything, especially eating, and going to God until we get an answer. We could certainly learn from their example here. Ezra says God answered their prayer before they left. It was done before they broke camp. They didn’t have to see it to believe it. In some way that is not recorded, they had the assurance that the prayer was already answered. May the LORD teach us to pray with such fervor and hear the answer with this kind of convinced assurance.