“Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord.” (Esther C:12*)
Have you ever felt like that? “Seized with mortal anguish”? I’ve never faced genocide the way Queen Esther did, but I have felt the “mortal anguish” of despair when we faced deep financial trouble … when our baby’s life hung by a thread … when our son was lost to us in drugs. Like Esther, I have cried “Now help me, who am alone and have no one but you, O Lord, my God”! (Vs. 16). And God has answered me.
Esther’s prayer is paired at mass today with Jesus’s assurance that “everyone who asks receives; and the one seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). Our God answers prayer! And if you throw yourself on God, as Esther did, and ask for help, he will hear you and help you.
But what should I say?
Maybe you wonder sometimes how to pray. The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 138) provides a bridge from Esther’s anguish (and ours) to Jesus’s reassurance. It says to God what we should say. And between each encouraging stanza, it calls us to join in this response: “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.”
Psalm 138 gives us words to pray when we’re in need. It looks to God’s faithfulness in the past and draws from that hope for the future. When we pray with it, our hearts lift from despondency to praise and a confident plea to the God whose “kindness…endures forever.”
God answers prayer – and teaches us to pray
Every time we go to mass, our loving Father feeds us at his table — first from the Word, then from Jesus’s Body and Blood. How often do we doze off through the first half of the meal, only to wake up for the main course, the Eucharist? Today’s readings are a beautiful example of how rich the food is, leading up to that.
The Lord cares deeply about your financial troubles. He cares about your fears about your future or your children, your aches and pains, your failures, your father’s health. He died to save us from all these side-effects of sin in the world. One day, all our troubles will be gone. But in the meantime Jesus walks with us, listens to us, hears our crying. And he strengthens and encourages and helps us and gives us rest.
Take today’s readings to heart
Take today’s readings to heart — whether you read them today or a month from now. You can find them here at the USCCB website if you don’t have a missalette or if your schedule won’t allow for daily mass.
Blessings on you as you read his Word!
*My Protestant friends: you may not recognize this citation (Esther C) or the content of the verse as coming from the Book of Esther, because in Protestant Bibles there is no mention of God and no chapter called “C”. That is because there are two ancient versions of Esther, the Massoretic Hebrew version and the Greek Septuagint (LXX)—which contains some verses (primarily prayers) not found in the Hebrew. Catholics use the LXX version while Protestants and Jews use the Hebrew. Adding to the confusion, some Catholic publishers follow St. Jerome and put all the Greek sections in an appendix at the end, while others place them where they belong logically in the book and “number” them with letters (hence “C”). I encourage you to read the deuterocanonical portions of Esther. Bible Gateway has them all together here.
© 2107 Sarah Christmyer
You may be interested in these related posts:
- Lord, Make Haste to Help Me!
- Our Daily Bread: Three Steps to Daily Bible Reading
- Resources for Reading the Bible
Karen Sheehy says
love the part where you said, “Jesus walks with us, listens to us, hears our crying.” Also loved where you pointed out the difference between Protestant Bibles and Catholic ones in regards to Esther. I think this kind of info is helpful for all Christians to know. We all love the Lord and want to be able to speak from the same place of love.
Kate Anderson says
Such a beautiful post, Sarah! I loved how you explained the prayer from Psalm 138: “It looks to God’s faithfulness in the past and draws from that hope for the future.” A wise mentor once encouraged me to keep a prayer journal – She explained how looking back at the way God answered my prayers would help me become aware of His faithfulness. In spite of today’s troubles, we can thank the Lord for safely carrying us through many storms in days past. And we can ever trust that He will be with us in whatever is to come. Thank you for the blessing of this lovely reflection.
Sarah Christmyer says
Amen! Kate, I keep a prayer journal for the same reason. May yours offer you much hope for the future. Thank you for writing. Blessings!
Anne Costa says
Thank you gor this beautiful reflection.