When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.NIV

The Jews were facing a desperate situation, and it called for an urgent and serious response. The response it received from them was equal to the magnitude of the problem. There was a spiritual battle to be fought and the people faced it with spiritual weapons, including fasting. Mention fasting to some Christians and they respond like you’re some sort of weird extremist. ‘You can push things a bit too far you know!’ There are no doubt churches where it’s a bit like the king’s court. There’s no room for the expression of grief, sadness lament. It has to be all joy (or at least, you have to feign it). You could draw a crowd for a band and a knees up, but not nearly so many would turn up for a knees down. Prayer is hard work and prayer meetings are not widely popular. The devil has a vested interest in ensuring this is so.

During the last year (2020) the world has faced a serious problem. Hundreds of thousands of people have died. That’s hundreds of thousands of souls swept into eternity. I can’t help but ask the question whether many of us in the church have been playing instead of praying? There are answers to be found on our knees and nowhere else. There are ‘kinds’ which do not come out except by prayer and fasting. Yet we devote hours to trivia. May God have mercy on His own people, the church, as well as on our land and world.

On new year’s day 2021 we thank God for the science, and the scientists who have made a vaccine possible. We are right to be grateful for this dawning of hope. But in the short term a desperate crisis rages. Thankfully, it’s not too late for there to be an urgent and serious response from the people of God.

Who will rise (or rather, bend) to the challenge?