One of my biblical school students, Patti Cacciabaudo, recently caught my attention with one of her homework answers. She was reflecting on a powerful moment in the Book of Esther – a moment when Esther offers a heartfelt prayer for courage before going before the pagan king to plead for the lives of her people. Esther is a faithful Jew – who also happens to be the queen!
Before offering this prayer – which she knows may well be the last prayer of her life – Esther is feeling an anxiety that the text describes as “deadly.” She flees to the Lord – but before opening her mouth, she very deliberately prepares herself for prayer. Queen Esther exchanges her “splendid apparel” for the clothing of a mourner. She foregoes perfume for ashes. “She utterly humbled her body; every part that she loved to adorn she covered with her tangled hair” (14:2).
Patti’s insight was this: Isn’t this the attitude we should all take into prayer? Esther was a queen, with every right to her finery and adornments. But in God’s eyes, she knew what she was – she was simply his child, his faithful one, his little one in need of salvation. Before the Lord, there are no kings and queens. There are just little ones. As Patti explained, “Without the ‘finery’ of fashion, of worldly goods, I simply present myself before him, unadorned, a child of the Father.”
Note: The prayer of Esther is found in the deuterocanonical additions to the book of Esther. To read it, click here.