Summary: James gives us the example of how to pray by referring back to Elijah’s prayer for rain. What did he do that we can copy in our prayers?
OPEN: A man by the name of Harold Lamb told this story of a sales presentation he made at a church board meeting:
"My co-worker and I were making a sales call to a rural Baptist church. We gave our presentation to the church committee, and then the group’s chairman walked to the altar and knelt down.
After a minute of silent prayer, he returned and announced in a solemn tone, “The Lord tells me we should wait.”
My colleague responded by walking to the altar and kneeling down himself. Then he returned to the group, looked at the chairman and declared, ’He wants to talk with you again.’”
APPLY: I’m not really sure EITHER man was ACTUALLY praying, but I found it interesting that both men saw prayer as a way of getting what they wanted.
And there’s nothing wrong with using prayer to get what you want. James tells us that this is a perfectly acceptable function of prayer.
He writes in 4:2 that one of the reasons we don’t receive what we desire is we don’t pray. In other parts of his letter he tell us:
o If we lack wisdom we should pray
o If we are troubled we should pray
o And if we are sick, we should call for the elders to anoint us with oil and pray for us.
In other words: If there’s something you want from God - you should pray, or have others pray for you.
And most of us believe that God answers our prayers. In 1994, Life Magazine published a survey which indicated that 94% of those who prayed regularly believed God had answered their prayers.
I. But, if we believe that prayers has such power, do we pray as often as we should?
There is a nagging suspicion that we don’t pray as much as we might. How many of you pray as often as you thing you should (only one man put up his hand). Well, don’t feel bad. Most people don’t feel like they pray enough either.
ILLUS: Larry Davies, in the online magazine "Heartlight" tells of the time he asked his class:
"Does God answer prayers?"
The class erupted with answers like
"Well then,” he said “why don’t we pray more frequently?"
There was a long uncomfortable silence in the room. But then they began to open up…
Amongst their replies were these two:
"I don’t know how to pray."
"I don’t know what to say."
Those are common fears for many of us. That’s why Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.
It is common for many of us to feel we don’t know how to pray or what to say – and James understood that so he gave us an example of how we can pray.
He wrote: "Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops." (James 5:17-18)
In other words… if you want to have a good model of how to pray, look at how Elijah prayed. SO that’s what we’re going to do this morning. Turn with me in your Bibles to I Kings 18.
Before we read this passage, I want to give you the background on this story.
At the time of I Kings 18, the King of Israel was a man named Ahab, and he was married to a Philistine woman who has since become infamous because of her wickedness - Jezebel.
Partly because of Jezebel’s evil influence, Ahab and the nation of Israel had fallen into a kind of "hybrid paganism."
o They apparently still prayed to Yahweh
o BUT they also worshipped some wicked pagan gods: Baal and Asherah
So - because of their disobedience - God sent Elijah to tell King Ahab that he and the nation of Israel would be punished with a drought. There would be no rain and no dew (this ended up lasting 3 ½ years.) At the end of that 3 ½ years, God sent Elijah back to King Ahab and offered a challenge. Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mt. Carmel. All of Israel gathered at the foot of the Mountain and they heard Elijah confront them with these words:
"How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." (I Kings 18:21)
Then the challenge begins: Follow along with me as I read I Kings 18:22-40
(describes the failure of Baal’s prophets to get their god to hear them, the preparation and fiery consumption of Elijah’s offering and the slaughter of the false prophets).