Fasting Day 13: The Ezra Fast- Shades of Grace | Natalie Nichols

Fasting Day 13: The Ezra Fast

The Ezra Fast

Are you dealing with a money problem? Are you facing a financial dilemma? Are you going through a major change in life? Are you experiencing a problem you did nothing to initiate? Do you need room for expansion of your business or your church?

As you are fasting and targeting this issue, look to Ezra and the fast he called when leading the Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem.

Look to Ezra and His Fast

When fasting, it is vital to know what scriptural precedents apply to your causes for fasting. Not only will this encourage you, it will also help you know how to pray and how to believe God to respond in your situation.

The Ezra fast brings great solutions to great problems. (The Ezra fast is an occasion of fasting in Scripture, not specific foods to eat while fasting, such as in the “Daniel fast.”)

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen…to undo the heavy burdens” (Isaiah 58:6).

To “undo the heavy burdens” is to solve problems, inviting the Holy Spirit’s aid in lifting loads and overcoming barriers that keep us and our loved ones from walking joyfully in God’s will.

The book of Ezra tells the story of Jews returning back to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. For Ezra and those returning with him, the long journey ahead was plagued by gangs and thieves. Ezra and the Jews had their wives and children with them, as well as silver, gold, the sacred articles of the temple, their household goods and treasures too. The Israelites were not leaving Babylonian captivity as beleaguered prisoners. They were not mere escapees. They had settled down in Babylon, built houses and businesses. Many had grown wealthy. Some did not want to live in primitive conditions in order to rebuild their nation. They wanted to enjoy the luxury of Babylon. The Jews who did not want to return were required to send gold and silver for rebuilding the Temple. Ezra was transporting their money and possessions.

“In all there were: 25 tons of silver; 100 silver articles weighing 150 pounds; 7500 pounds of gold” (Ezra 8:26, CEV).

The Jews were the perfect target for the thieves and thugs. They were loaded…and defenseless. They desperately needed protection for the long journey.

Ezra was facing a financial problem. Just as there were thieves and robbers lying in wait for the Jews along their journey, John 10:10 tells us that we too have a thief lying in wait for us. He has come to steal, kill and destroy. He desires to rob us of financial provision and make us slaves to fear, torment, worry and anxiety.

Ezra took the right step. He declared a corporate fast.

“21There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king. ‘The good hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him’ 23So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:21-23, NIV).

Fasting is not an escape from the problem, but an attempt to enlist the help of the Holy Spirit in solving the problem. When we fast, pray and honor God with our tithe, our giving – and do not take what is God’s for our own use – God will honor with a solution to financial dilemmas.

The Ezra fast and its Scriptural principles apply any time we are facing a financial crisis. Yet this isn’t the only time in which it is applicable. Although the scenarios to which it can be applied are numerous, in this post I want to look at a few specific ones. Anytime we are going through major change in life, we need to enter an Ezra fast. Such change could include a marriage, a move, or a new job. Anytime we are making major decisions, we should go on an Ezra fast. When we encounter a problem we didn’t initiate, we need to go on an Ezra fast. When we encounter hardship, we should fast as Ezra and the Jews did.

Ezra set a powerful example.

Eight Action Steps Based on Ezra’s Example

Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough Elmer Towns

In Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, Elmer Towns lists eight takeaways from Ezra’s example — eight steps you can take in your own problem or challenge. (For more explanation of these points, please see Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. I highly recommend it!)

1. Choose Those to be Involved. All of the Jews were facing the problem, so all were asked to fast. If the problem is one of group proportions, perhaps a corporate fast is in order. For example, if your church is facing a money problem or needs to expand and cannot afford the expansion, call for an Ezra fast. If large layoffs in the community affect your church, call for an Ezra fast. If an independent ministry is facing financial troubles, call the Board of Directors and others involved to an Ezra fast. The motivating factors represented by Ezra’s fast are not just financial ones – they include matters of decision making, security, hardship and change. Although Ezra was the leader and bore responsibility for decision making, he did not fast alone. He displayed great leadership by calling everyone to a fast.

Elmer Towns, Vice President of Liberty University, tells of a time when his pastor called their church to a fast. The church was facing a great financial need of $1 million. On Sunday morning the pastor asked the church to fast from sundown that evening to Sundown Monday evening. He explained to them the problem and the reasons for fasting. When he asked those who were committed to fasting to stand, the entire congregation stood. In the service that evening, he reminded them that the fast began right after church, and that they were to drink only liquids till the following evening. They also conducted prayer meetings by group – men, women and youth. The pastor clearly presented the crisis when calling everyone to fast and implemented prayer as well. God honored the fast and worked a $1 million dollar miracle for this church. God honors fasting and prayer!

2. Share the Problem. Ezra didn’t ask just anyone to fast. The people he asked to fast were involved in the problem. “I proclaimed a fast…that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us” (Ezra 8:21). The people following Ezra were scared and desperately wanted their children and themselves to be safe. When calling a group to fast, it is important to communicate the reason why.

3. Fast Seriously. For a fast to be spiritually effective, we must not only withhold food, but we must also agonize in prayer. Ezra called a fast “that we might afflict ourselves before our God (v. 21, KJV). In Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough, Elmer towns writes,

Originally, when people faced a life-threatening situation, they were too frightened or distressed to eat. They adjusted their diets out of agony and deep struggle of soul. The cause was the problem; the effect was diet adjustment. Eventually, people began to see that they needed this deep spiritual exercise to pray properly. Thus they reversed the effect—fasting, so everyone might enter into the cause—spiritual travail in intercession.”[1]

To the Jews who were following Ezra, fasting communicated to them the seriousness of their journey and the threat to their lives.

4. Fast Before Attempting a Solution. We usually brainstorm all possible solutions and then make a decision based on a little human wisdom and a lot of guesswork. Ezra did something before even discussing the problem with his leaders, the elders. “I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days” (v. 15, KJV). During this time he waited for the Levites to join them. Ezra didn’t attempt any solutions before everyone was gathered together. He did not try to solve any problems before fasting and prayer. We usually do the opposite: we brainstorm ideas, start addressing solutions…and after all else fails, then we might pray and fast.

5. Fast on Site with Insight. Ezra brought the people face to face with their problem—he brought them to the banks of the river.

“Beside the Ahava River, I asked the people to go without eating and to pray” (Ezra 8;21, CEV).

We have a modern term for this: “Prayerwalking.” Joshua and the Israelites “Prayerwalked” when they marched around Jericho as God instructed. Joshua again prayerwalked as God instructed him to walk throughout the Promised Land by faith – the land he would conquer.

6. Fast for Step-by-Step Guidance. Only during the fast, not before, should we seek answers to our problems. We should fast and pray not only for final outcomes, but for step-by-step solutions to the problem. There was more than one route Ezra could have taken. How could he know which was the right road? Ezra called a fast “to seek of [God] a right way” (v. 21, KJV). God gave Ezra the direction he sought and showed him specific steps to take in order to prepare wisely. Ezra divided the treasure and distributed it among the twelve priests. If part of the caravan were attacked by thieves, all would not be lost; some of it might get through. This was double the wisdom as it not only protected from thieves without, but also from thieves within. Each priest was accountable for a certain amount of treasure and could not pocket any along the way.

7. Know the Desired Outcome. When you call for an Ezra Fast, you should first pray for victory. You should know what you want the outcome to be and ask God to give it to you. Don’t enter the fast problem centered. This will make you a pessimist and render you unable to pray in faith.

8. Search for Scriptural Solutions to the Problem. Take time to write out the scriptural principles involved in the problem and ask, “How have people in the Bible solved a problem similar to this? This will cause you to read the bible and understand passages that speak to your specific problem. [2]

If you relate to Ezra’s problem today – if you are in the midst of financial issues, security threats, uncertain decisions, changes or hardship – know that God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will meet you as you fast and pray and He will bring great solutions to great problems!

“The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. So we arrived in Jerusalem…”
Ezra 8:31

Question: How does Ezra’s response to his problem help equip you as you respond to yours?


[1] Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996), 47

[2] The eight points are taken from Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer Towns, pp. 46-55




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14 Responses to “Fasting Day 13: The Ezra Fast”

  1. thalitha says:

    Hi nat
    I have fasted for my financial problems but i havent see change. I am in a deep debt problems i dont have peace in my life the lawyers are phoning evryday. I had lots of creidt card before national credit act was introduces in SA now i cant make pay them because i cant make loan anywhere. I hopeless i am a christian from methodist church in South africa. Do you think i dont do this right. Please help

    • Hellen Jack says:

      Hi Thalitha, I also had that financial problem. Hey it was hectic. There were times I would not even buy a bread for my children but am working. I am also a Methodist like you here in South Africa. I started a 21 day fast which was conducted by our reverend at church. It was in January this year, and then 10 February we went for a long fast which is Lent and God answer my prayers. Just have faith in God don’t doubt him no matter what the situation is.

  2. Betty says:

    hi Nat
    thanks for such an inspiring and educating Article.I just have one question and i feel God is talking to me that why i am doing some researches about types of fasts.I have know about the Esther fast and i know its 3 days absolute fast.How long is the Ezra fast.?I also want to tell Thalitha that when you expect a miracle from God after your fast begin praising and worshiping him giving him thanks for what is to come that what pleases him and that is faith.Hebrews clearly states that it is impossible to please God without faith.
    thank you be blessed

    • James HS Ong says:

      Yes I agree that the Bible is silent about the duration of the Ezra Fast.
      If you would notice the various types of fasting mentioned in the Bible, both in Old Testaments and the New Testaments, they were for specific purpose and situation.
      The Ezra Fasting is for a breakthrough in the finance and as Ezra called upon a fast for God's protection on their assets the Israelis would be carrying on their journey back to Jerusalem from Babylon. From the accounts of the Scripture in book of Ezra, this is an enormous amount that will draw the attention of thieves and bandits along the route.

      As to the duration of the fasting, in my opinion is the time of the journey by foot to Jerusalem, which estimated to be about 30 days or a month. By fast horse back, the journey is estimated to take about 1 week. So as to the different types of fasting for the purpose and objective, many of them are the 3 day fasting. For example, Esther fasting, Paul's fasting, Jonah Fasting, short duration fasting is absolute fasting, without eating and drinking. However Three Day Fasting is for missionary trip plan, as to the Jonah, Paul and Esther experiences.

      In conclusion the Ezra fasting has the express fasting of 1 week, is for quick messages and fast results. This is for Job change, upgrading and for investment and venture into a relatively new business. The long term fasting of 30 days is for a debt situation, and a deep rooted problem to solve poverty in your family or community.

      Hope that answers your question; please do not miss the important part of the fasting, in our motive and attitude and humility of mind, and will to obey God's instruction.

  3. Nancy says:

    Many of you, My people, do not walk in the power of My Spirit, which I have made available to you, says the Lord. This is either because you have not asked for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or because you have put Him out in order to live according to the dictates of the flesh. I would have you consider that times and circumstances require your obedience to stay in the flow of My Spirit, and it is time for your to live, move and have your being in Him. Luke 11:13 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"

  4. Ruth Esther says:

    Please note that fasting is not manipulating God to answer your requests. Fasting humbles ourselves to acknowledge that we cannot do anything on our own, It makes us aware of divine intervention, the grace to stay focused on knowing that God cares & that He is in control; result = peace that only God can provide despite circumstances.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Hello, there! God led me here tonight, as I have been seeking His face so earnestly concerning a big decision my family and I must make. I am studying the Ezra fast, and I am searching for the answers we need. Thank you for this insightful article!
    My recent post The Inner Views of Evelyn Rennich

  6. Rachel says:

    How long is the EZRA fast

  7. Gloria says:

    I am praying and fasting today and God put Ezra fast in my mind yesterday.I came across this site today for the 1st time.It is powerful I have been blessed so fatlr by the teaching and comments above. I am doing a fast of thanksgiving to thank God for answering my prayer in a powerful way. I learnt from someone that after God has answered your prayer do a fast of thanksgiving to thank God for answering your prayers.I have been doing this for many years after a major breakthrough or after a spiritual revival meetings I have done and God has been faithful I have seen more answers.So in conclusion don't just fast when you have a need and after an answer you forget to fast.Fast again just to thank Him for answering your prayers. Godbless all of us as we continue to seek His face.

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