The Book of Esther is one of the most beautiful stories in the Old Testament and it concerns the adventures of a young Israelite woman who through Providential circumstances becomes the wife of the mighty emperor of Persia.
It becomes clear to Esther that her rise to great power and privilege is meant to serve God’s purposes, and she becomes the means by which the Israelites are saved from the cruel cunning and wicked designs of the enemies of her people.
Today’s excerpt, depicts Esther in great distress as she is faced with a decision- she can remain quiet and uninvolved, enjoy the benefits of her servants, the distractions of her fine clothes and jewels, and savor the romance of her husband, the king, or she can insert herself into a dangerous, politically charged situation where her involvement might cost her the king’s favor and result in a loss of her status and luxuries- even the loss of her own life.
The palaces of kings and the halls of the mighty are very dangerous places and Esther in danger up to her beautiful, bejeweled neck.
Beset by her situation, she turns to God in prayers, asking, not to be delivered from her difficulties, but through them. She prays that she might have the courage to act, to speak what is true and do what is right.
Her prayer is answered. She musters the fortitude to take a great risk.
Prayers to be delivered from hardship come naturally (at least for most). In the face of the raw facts of life we look for exemptions. In the face of difficulties we try to find a way to avoid what is unpleasant. The cry of many is that God would deliver us from hardship, and while this is understandable, such a prayer permits us only a limited vision.
Our limited vision in our prayer must be expanded in its power by the revelation of the Christ’s Cross. With the Cross of Christ as our reference point in prayer we are enabled to pray, as Esther did, not to be delivered from difficulties, but through them. The Cross of Christ reveals that God will act to make sure that our sufferings always give way to a greater good, even if we do not fully understand or experience what this good could be.
As Christians, our prayer is always “in Christ”. Praying in Christ does not mean that asking for things in the Lord Jesus’ name is like magic and we get what we want.
Instead, praying “in Christ” means that we seek our Heavenly Father’s will, as Christ did, in all the events and circumstances of life- even in those things that are difficult, painful or disappointing.
“Thy will be done” is the most powerful and important of all the prayers of the Church- it is most difficult of our prayers and the one that is always answered.