I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.

Ezra 8: 21

It would be fair to ask about what a story that relates how a group of people who lived long before anyone that I ever met making a decision to go without food while they camped by the side of some strange river in what would today be Iraq has to do with the day that I am about to have. That would be a reasonable question. When Ezra was preparing to travel from the land of captivity back to Jerusalem, he knew that he and all of those who were with him would need to be clear about what they were doing, for they were as human as you and I. Thus, they were certainly going to encounter stresses, distractions, and lose heart for the travel and for the work ahead, too.

So, Ezra stopped all of the preparations for the trip, called everyone together, and led them in a time of deep reflection on their own relationships with God. They joined together in a process of quietly listening to the Lord’s voice as He provided them with instruction, direction, and encouragement for the days ahead. The act of fasting isn’t about going hungry or even specifically about sacrifice. It is done in order to set aside all of the routine, the usual, and the common things of life that can consume most of our attention and energy so that we can focus totally on God and on His desire for us. It takes real humility to recognize the need for the Lord’s step-by-step involvement in each day of our life’s journey. Yet, when I am humble before God, my heart hears Him more clearly, and I am most ready to yield my will to His.

It is hard to schedule this act of setting aside the necessary routine of living and of purposefully and humbly yielding my plans and desires to the direction of the Lord. There always seems to be something important to do and urgent places to go. However, doing it results in a day that is driven by the orderly purpose of God where His strong will overcomes my distraction, confusion, and uncertainty. Perhaps the most important item on my daily calendar is the time that I take to separate myself from all of the urgent tasks of my life and open my heart and my mind to receive my Lord’s true focus for this day. This is a time when God’s safe route for this day’s journey is made clear.