I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. … The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. [Psalm 145:1-2,17-19 (NLT)]
After Esther fasted and prayed about approaching the king, she had both courage and a strategy. From the way Xerxes was so easily manipulated by his Persian noble friends and Haman, it’s clear that he was a temperamental, weak, and foolish king; Esther used that knowledge to her advantage. When she dressed in her finest robes and approached the king, I imagine she made sure he was in good spirits and that she looked irresistible. Welcoming Esther and offering her half his kingdom, Xerxes invited his queen to ask for anything, but she knew better than to take the royal offer literally. Graciously, she only asked for his and Haman’s presence at a banquet that evening. Esther’s delay didn’t mean she’d lost her courage. Persian etiquette for making a request typically began with a small unrelated favor, which is what Esther did. After a pleasant evening, she beguiled Xerxes by simply inviting him to dinner again. Gaining one small concession at a time, she eventually worked her way up to the real issue at hand. By waiting to make her appeal, Esther aroused the king’s curiosity.
A banquet was the perfect setting for Esther’s request. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, Persians typically decided important matters when they were drunk; once they’d sobered up, their decisions would be confirmed. That certainly was the case when the drunken Xerxes banished Queen Vashti. On the other hand, any decisions made while sober were suspect and were to be reevaluated when the parties were intoxicated (which may explain why Xerxes and Haman sat down to drink after their apparently sober decision to eliminate the Jews)! Esther understood the importance of alcohol in the king’s decision making and, after two nights of banquets, she finally made her request while they were drinking wine. When Esther asked the king to save her life and the lives of her people, she prudently put the blame for the wicked plot entirely on Haman rather than her easily manipulated husband.
By necessity, Esther made her plea to the king in a calculated and roundabout way. Fortunately, we don’t have to strategize or scheme when we approach our Heavenly King! Because we are His beloved children and know that He loves us, we don’t have to worry that God’s interest in us has waned. There’s no need to dress in our finest attire to entice Him nor must we wait until He extends his golden scepter before approaching His throne. God is far more interested in our hearts than our appearance and our imperfect selves can approach Him any time. We don’t have to pique God’s curiosity or manipulate Him into asking us what we want because God knows what we need even before we do! We don’t have to carefully phrase our words out of fear that He will banish us from His presence if we displease Him. We certainly don’t have to ply God with vintage wine, start with little favors before working up to our big request, or wait until He’s in a good mood before offering our prayers. God is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow. If we have no words, the Holy Spirit will speak for us.
Let us never approach God with subterfuge and apprehension as Esther did Xerxes. We should come to Him as candidly as did David and the other psalmists. With our Heavenly King, we can honestly sob in sorrow, shout in anger, plead in distress, stammer in confusion, whisper in fear, weep in regret, confess in repentance, shout in praise, sing in thanksgiving, and even dance in joy—all without fear of banishment from His presence!