For three days and nights the Jewish people in the capital city prayed for Queen Esther. None of these prayers are recorded for us, but we can be sure the people were praying for her to know the right thing to do, for her safety as she went before the king, and for their own safety as a people.
Prayer of intercession is something different than what we usually pray when we ask God for things for ourselves, such as guidance, wisdom, daily needs, and so on. Prayer of intercession is prayer which asks God for something for someone else. There are many people who are examples of someone who prayed for others in the Old Testament – including Abraham, Moses, David, Samuel, Hezekiah, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. But the greatest intercessor in the Bible was Jesus, as He prayed for His disciples and the various people He met here on earth. And now, since Jesus returned to Heaven after His rising from the dead, He is continuing His intercession for us. We read in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
This is one of the major reasons Jesus is no longer here on earth – He is in Heaven interceding for each of us who are His children!
How is intercession-prayer different from regular prayer? Intercession is prayer on behalf of someone else with a specific answer being requested. We cannot intercede for ourselves, but we can for others. This does not mean that prayer for ourselves is wrong – Esther prayed for herself to have the wisdom and courage to do what God asked her to do.
The value of intercessory prayer is that someone who is not personally involved in making a good decision about something can often see a situation more clearly than the person who is IN the situation. When we are the one in a situation, our prayer is often for courage or wisdom or guidance or deliverance. The intercessor can pray for God’s glory to be accomplished in the event in the other person’s life, and therefore often prays for faithfulness and peace for that person, so they will be able to stay with Jesus through the event.
One of the best examples of intercession from Jesus’ life here on earth is found in Luke 22:31-34 – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know Me.”
Did you notice that Jesus did not pray for Peter to ESCAPE temptation? Rather, He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail IN the temptation, even though Jesus told him he would fall to the temptation.
*When you ask others to pray for you, what do you ask them to pray?
The Queen’s choice
Queen Esther had a hard decision to make. Her fear may truly have been that if she chose to enter the king’s presence and he rejected her, her mission to save her people from death would have failed. If she died, then who could ask the king to save her people? Another problem was, once a decree was made by the king there was no way it could be revoked. What could she possibly ask of the king that could make any difference to her people?
Often we also see only two choices while we are in trouble. We must have a job, or we will starve. We must get a good education, or we will never have a good job. If we are not healthy, then we must have sin in our life so God is punishing us. The Bible is full of accounts where God provided a different answer than what the people had considered.
The people of Israel, traveling through the desert, were without water. They probably thought their only options were to dig a well or die of thirst. God’s answer was for Moses to strike a rock, and water gushed from it, to more than satisfy the needs of these millions of people (Exodus 17:1-7).
A city had been under siege from an enemy army so long that no more food remained in the city. The people thought their only choices were to surrender to the enemy or die of starvation. God’s answer was to chase the enemy army away, leaving all the food they had for themselves so the people had plenty of food to eat (2 Kings 17).
The disciples of Jesus were in a boat when a terrible storm came. They thought they had no choice; they were all about to die. Jesus calmed the winds and the waves with a single command (Mark 4:35-41).
Queen Esther chose to believe God would provide another answer besides the choices she could see. She chose to risk her life for the lives of her people, and stepped into the presence of the king without official permission to do so. She dressed in the best clothes she had – those provided by the king. She went to the doorway where the king could see her.
God’s answer to her choice was to give the king a love for her which made him reach out to her with the golden scepter of grace – her life was spared. She stepped forward and touched the tip of his scepter, acknowledging to him that she knew she was there by his permission alone and openly accepting his grace.
*When God provides another answer to your problem than you thought possible, what is your response to Him?
A Legacy Forever
Queen Esther told the king how she and her people had been sentenced to die. The king had left the room in anger to try to find a way to defeat his own law. Haman, in desperation, came to Esther to beg for mercy, but in his fear, he came too close to Esther – so when the king returned to the room he thought Haman was trying to hurt Queen Esther. The king immediately demanded Haman’s death and one of Esther’s servants suggested to the king that Haman should be hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The king agreed, and Haman died on his own instrument of death.
The king could not disobey his own law, and the date had been set for anyone in the kingdom to kill any Jewish person they could find. But God gave the king the way out – the law did not state that the Jews were not allowed to defend themselves against these attacks!
The king immediately issued another decree that the Jews should defend themselves against the attacks on the two days they would be attacked. He also made Mordecai his new “chief of staff” in place of Haman. A celebration, called the Feast of Purim, began on the day after the attacks, and is still celebrated today by the Jewish people. Even though the king had given permission for the Jewish people who defended themselves from these assaults to also plunder the belongings of the people they killed in self-defense, the Jewish people did not take anything from them. Their celebration today remains a praise to God for deliverance from the hands of their enemies.
*What do you want to be remembered for in years to come, when you are gone from this world?
We might want to be famous for our skills or gifts – such as painting or singing or a sport we could play. We might want to be remembered for how much we had – money or knowledge or beautiful homes. We might want our legacy to be children or grandchildren who would remember us with love.
But the greatest thing of value for our lives is that which lasts for eternity. Jesus said that nothing we store here on earth would last forever – see Matthew 6:19-21. These same verses tell us that what we treasure most is also where our heart is. Therefore, if our greatest desires are for things here – money, job, fame, education, or even a relationship with another person – nothing of these things can last forever.
*What does heaven mean to you?
Most religions of this world teach that heaven is having everything we want, having it our way, and never having to work for anything again. If this is the heaven you desire, it will be a lonely place; there could never be another human being in the same heaven with you.
God’s Heaven is perfect relationship in perfect unity with perfect peace and love forever. This Heaven will be full of joy and fellowship with everyone else there! Our greatest eternal legacy is in those whom we have encouraged to join us in God’s Heaven!
Read Esther 6, 7, 9 and 10
FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS (series)