Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Image in the Mirror

Have you listened to your prayers lately? If you're like me, you have set times of prayer by yourself and with others, but you also carry on a conversation with God as you travel each day. God's Word is the mirror (James 1:23-25) and my actions reveal what I believe about what I see. But the image? Perhaps the image in the mirror is best reflected in my prayers. After reading the book of Esther, I have been challenged to evaluate how I truly think about God based on my prayers.

From the beginning of the book I was struck by Esther's willingness to take advice from Mordecai, her uncle, and Hegai, the king's eunuch (Esther 2:15, 20). She did not have all the answers, she did not know or pretend to know what would be best, so she relied on the wisdom of others. My willingness to listen to those in authority reflects my willingness to listen to God. If I am doing life on my own, I am not in fellowship with God or others; pride clouds each step of my day. To ask for and take advice is to live in humility. In prayer, do I ask and wait? Or do I tell and do?

Having read the entire book numerous times, I'm convinced it should be the book of Mordecai. The title, "Esther," is itself a tribute to his humility and wisdom. Although we don't hear his prayers, we see his actions. Mordecai intervened on the king's behalf without expectation of reward (Esther 2:22-23).  He refused to butter-up Haman like his countrymen who had grown accustomed to winning the favor of their oppressors (3:2). He was true to God regardless of reward or reprisal. Does my prayer life reflect a desire to please others and win their approval over the approval of God? Or do I pray for courage, strength and wisdom to please Him and Him alone?

Esther, after seeking Mordecai's counsel, put her life on the line. After three days of prayer and fasting, she invited King Ahasuerus and Haman to a meal that was already prepared (Esther 5:4). There are many ideas about why Queen Esther would do this, but I wonder if she wanted to know Haman for herself. She had seen the document of death (4:8), but being a woman of wisdom, she didn't assume the worst. Each of us knows someone of self-importance, like Haman, who exposes himself needlessly. There's a good chance Haman felt he was safe enough to openly despise Mordecai and the Jews at that first meal. When I am in a safe place, how do I regard others? Does my prayer life assume the best of people or the worst?

Finally, Esther didn't initiate her request. She wasn't demanding or combative or impatient. She trusted that God would meet her need in His timing--and there was plenty to spare, more than 8 months! When given an opportunity, she voiced concern for the safety of herself and her people, not judgment on Haman. She respected the king with her request, stating the problem, not the solution, in her initial outcry. Do my prayers reflect a deep trust and respect for God? Do I wait on Him, as a weaned child sitting contentedly on his mother's lap? Or do I demand and claw and beg? Do I approach Him with the problem or the solution?

This morning I am struck with a serious need to evaluate my prayer life and personal beliefs of God-who He is and what He can do. My prayer, held up to Scripture, exposes my greatest desires and personal view of God. By His grace, He will help me repent and grow in Christlikeness. Have you listened to your prayers lately?

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