Summary: God says that we need to pray like Elijah did. But Elijah seems so far above me I'm not sure I could pray with the same power as he did. But apparently I can. Do you know why?
I read the true story of a couple of men from Alberta, Canada who were driving home late one night. The weather was freezing - well below zero. Somehow, they ran off the road and got stuck in a ditch. And – as far as they could see – there was no one around for miles. They knew they were in danger of freezing to death so, to keep warm they pulled the seats out of their Honda and lit them on fire. As the blaze began to die down they tossed all of their belongings they weren’t wearing on as well, but they only burned for a short time. Finally, they lit the entire car on fire. As daybreak approached, the men saw they were within walking distance of nearby house, so they went there to get warm and that’s where police found them.
Now, what is odd about this story is that the men didn’t have to burn their car. Can you guess why they didn’t have to burn the car? (I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket). They had cell phones… and they had service. All they had to do was “call” and help would have come. But because they failed to THINK about their phones they destroyed everything they had.
You Might Ask: Jeff, why didn’t these men use their cell phones? (I waited till someone in the audience asked that question) I’m glad you asked. I have no idea why they didn’t use their phones. They had communication devices they didn’t use but it’s a mystery as to why. But now the question for us today is, why don’t Christians use a much more advanced communication device they’ve been given more often than we do? It’s a communication device given to us by God. It’s called prayer.
ILLUS: A man named Larry Davies once told of the time he asked his class: "Does God answer prayers?" And the class erupted with answers like "Of course." "Yes." And "Always." He paused a moment and then said: "Well if that’s true - why don’t we pray more often?" There was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Then they began to open up. And amongst their replies were these two: "I don’t know how to pray." And "I don’t know what to say."
(PAUSE) Now I’m sure that is what they think the problem is… but I’m not convinced.
ILLUS: According to the research by a couple of polling organizations (Pew Forum Dec. 2017 and Barna Research Aug. 2017) 65% of Americans pray to God. And even 28% of those who said they had NO FAITH had prayed in the last 3 months.
That’s pretty impressive… until you consider another fact about prayer. According to Dr. Jerry Paul (a man who gives seminars on prayer for our brotherhood), there is one study of prayer habits and churches revealed that 85% of people who pray regularly DO NOT EXPECT to have their prayers answered. (from an article at Bible.org in the 1990's)
Wait a minute! If 65% of Americans say they pray to God, why on earth would they pray if they don’t expect those prayers to be answered in the 1st place? It doesn’t make any sense!!! Unless, they don’t believe they are worthy enough; OR they don’t think they’re important enough; OR they don’t think their prayers are valuable enough for God to bother with.
They read this passage in James 5:16 where it says: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” and they think to themselves - “That pretty much leaves me out! I’m not all that righteous. Why would God even bother with my prayers?”
And of course, there’s an even more potent reason why folks might doubt God would answer their prayers: the fear that their request is just TOO big or TOO unreasonable for God to consider.
Now God understands that fear, and so he introduced us to a man of prayer. A man who’s supposed to be a model of what can happen when we pray. A man named Elijah. (PAUSE) Elijah? This is the guy who was fed by Ravens down by the riverside; who raised a young boy from the dead; who stood on Mt. Carmel and defeated the prophets of Baal and Asherah; who rode on a fiery chariot up into the heavens. And this is the guy I’m supposed to compare myself with? Elijah is so far out my league I can’t even compete!!!
And yet God tells us – Elijah wasn’t that much different than you. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). God says Elijah was just like you. He was just like me.
But Elijah was one of the greatest men of the Old Testament - the greatest of the prophets of that age - how could God believe He’s just like us? Well consider this: