Esther and her people are in desperate straits in exile. She is about to challenge the decrees that put her people at risk.
But what she contemplates is risky and she knows that “Through my own choice, I am endangering my life.” (Esther 14:4)
In today’s first reading, taken from one of the chapters of the book of Esther that is not found in most Protestant bibles, Esther prays to the Lord.
Two aspects of the prayer are striking.
Esther prayers from her weakness, recognizing the Lord’s presence. Twice she recalls that “I am alone and have no help but You.” (Esther 14: 8, 14)
Even in the midst of our weakness – maybe especially then – we can turn to the Lord and seek help, recognizing the loving providential care God has for us.
But that doesn’t mean that we are not risking our lives and that all will come out well (as it does for Esther.) At times, we will experience misunderstanding, suffering, and perhaps even death.
But we need to recall God’s love for us and ask for courage.
In the passage used in today’s lectionary reading, Esther asks God, “Give me courage.” But at the end of the chapter, verse 19, there is another plea for God’s help:
O God, whose might is over all,
hear the voice of the despairing,
and save us from the hand of evildoers.
And save me from my fear!
Fear often keeps us from doing what God calls us to do and so we continually need to ask God for courage, for the strength to cast aside our fears. We need to learn to pray with trust, as the psalmist does (Psalm 138: 3):
On the day I called you answered me,
you increased the strength of my soul.
This Lent, let us pray that we may be freed from our fears and have the strength of soul to risk our lives for others – so that all may live in justice and peace.