Summary: Part 7 in Elijah series - if he really was a man like us, as James says, in the context of prayer, how are we to follow his example?
In “Total Eclipse”, author Annie Dillard writes: “The Ring Nebula, in the constellation Lyra, looks, through binoculars, like a smoke ring. It is a star in the process of exploding. Light from its explosion first reached earth in 1054; it was a supernova then, and so bright it shone in the daytime. Now it is not so bright, but it is still exploding. It expands at the rate of 70 million miles a day. It is interesting to look through binoculars at something expanding 70 million miles a day. It does not budge. Its apparent size does not increase. Photographs of the Ring Nebula taken 15 years ago seem identical to photographs of it taken yesterday.”
You know, sometimes huge happenings are not always visible to the naked eye – especially in the spiritual realm. How often is it that this Ring Nebula is like our prayers. We don’t see a change, no matter how long we pray. But that’s only what we see with these eyes. If we could see it from God’s perspective, there would be a galaxy of changes happening. We would see God bringing about earth-shattering changes – we would see God working in circumstances and in hearts. We would know all that God is doing and intending to do in our lives. And we would not lose heart. We would persevere in prayer because we would immediately see the results.
Now, we’ve been looking at the life of Elijah since early January. He was a good man, and a great man. And today we come to that section of his life, just after his victory on Mt.Carmel, when he prayed for rain. Read v41-46. Now, this was such a significant part of Elijah’s life that it became a role model for us in James 5:16. The NIV says it this way: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” The KJV is this: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And I really like the NLT of the verse: “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.”
Then, the next 2 verses describes Elijah, or Elias in the KJV, and his prayer. V17-18: “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.” Now, you know what I find difficult about these verses? It’s that James says Elijah was just like us – “subject to like passions as we are.” (KJV) And then it says how he prayed. So, when it says he was like us, what it’s saying is that we can pray as he did. In the context of the verse, it’s saying we can pray like Elijah.
Perhaps this is easy for you to understand. I find it a challenge. To have the power in my prayers as Elijah did. To be able to control the weather as Elijah did. To turn people’s hearts as Elijah did. Maybe today you have felt as if your prayers have been ineffective and unproductive. Maybe you have felt that the answers to your prayers have been too long coming. Maybe you have wondered if God hears you. Today I want to look at these concerns. I’m not guaranteeing a fool-proof way to get God to hear you. And I’m not saying that these are the only things important in praying. All I’m offering you today is some insight into Elijah’s rain-giving prayer, and how it might help us in our own prayer lives.
The first thought towards praying like Elijah is that 1) we need to pray with God’s purposes. Although the passage never clearly states this idea, the principle is very clear: Elijah was praying for what god wanted to happen. The man was in tune with God’s plans. God wanted to discipline the nation for its worship of false gods, in essence, self-worship. And He wanted to discipline the nation for its double-mindedness, wanting the pleasures of idol-worship and the benefits of Jehovah-worship. And so, as a symbol of the dryness of the people’s hearts, the land became dry as well. God’s plan for the drought was to teach His people.
And when the rains came, that too was God’s plans. You see, Baal was the god of storms and rain. So, for him to be unable to fix the situation showed the people that their false god was useless. And when the prophet of the true and only God was able to bring rain, this showed that Baal was weak and powerless and Jehovah was almighty and all-powerful. When the rain stopped and when the rain fell – both times were God’s plans to show Israel that He alone was worthy of worship. He alone was in control.