Ezra’s Prayer

Under the Influence

Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” Ezra 9:5-6

In the USA, people who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) are arrested. Alcohol influences a person’s judgment and responses; it can generate grave consequences that no driver wants to face. As serious as DUI can be, an equally dangerous condition exists in the spiritual realm. We can be LUI—living under the influence of ungodly, worldly beliefs.

When a group of Israelites returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon, a priest/scribe named Ezra became concerned about the unfaithfulness of the people. The Bible says Ezra was a man who had “devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). The people had not remained separated from the unbelievers, the idolaters, around them. God had called the Israelites to live holy lives, faithful to Him, but they were being influenced by people who not only practiced abominations, but who were, for the most part, hostile to God.

How could the people who had just been set free and allowed to return to their land enslave themselves again with idolatry? Ezra was so appalled at the condition of the people that he mourned, fasted, fell on his knees, spread his hands, and prayed (Ezra 9:5-15).

First, he identified with the people’s transgressions. He said, “our sins…our guilt…”  Then he told the people, “But now, for a brief moment…the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage” (v. 8).

God sets Christians free from sin when He saves us, and yet we allow ourselves to become enslaved again. We come under the influence of movies, TV, books, magazines, the web, and people around us. We think we can be strong, that these things won’t influence us. But they will if we let them.

Are we appalled by what we see in our country? In our church? In our home? Maybe it’s time for us to mourn, fast, fall on our knees, spread our hands and pray as Ezra did—to ask for God’s mercy. May God give “light to our eyes, a little relief in our bondage” and help us see what’s influencing us.

DIG DEEPER:

Read 1 John 2:15-17. John writes “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” Do his words seem harsh or narrow-minded to you? How has the Fall, the entry of sin into the world, influenced the earth God created?

As Jesus spoke about treasure, money, food, and drink as recorded in Matthew 6:19-34, He mentioned the eye and light (vv. 22-23). The word light, beyond its usual meaning, refers to “truth, knowledge, and reason.”* How do the things we see influence our thoughts about treasure, money, food, and drink?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:9-13. What do you think Paul means when he says, “do not associate with immoral people”? Does that mean we can’t spend time with unbelievers? What should we do about immoral people in the church?

Nancy J. Baker

*Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for phōs (Strong’s 5457)”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 6 Aug 2013. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?

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