Elijah: An Example of the Power of Prayer

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The book of James tells us,

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
— James 5:17-18, NKJV

So let’s look at Elijah’s life and see what it tells us about how to pray. The book of 1 Kings records this part of Elijah’s life as a prophet of God to the nation of Israel. King Ahab was a terribly wicked ruler, and because of his disobedience the curse of drought was brought upon Israel. As God’s faithful prophet, Elijah had the job of informing King Ahab about it.

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
— 1 Kings 17:1 (NKJV)

As you can imagine, this made Elijah something of a target. Talk about being the king’s Least Favorite Person! Later, Ahab’s servant Obadiah says to Elijah, “There is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you!” (1 Kings 18:10, NKJV)

God Provides In The Midst of Hardship

During the three years of drought, God did amazing things for and through Elijah.

God told Elijah to camp by a creek for a while, and ravens brought bread and meat to feed him! This obscure hiding place kept him out of King Ahab’s clutches, and when the creek eventually dried up from the lack of rain God told Elijah to go to a certain widow in a neighboring country who God had commanded to provide for Elijah.

Even though we’re looking at Elijah’s life for inspiration, I find the example of the widow inspiring, too. She was scraping the bottom of the jar to make one last biscuit for her son and herself, and then had resigned herself to starvation. She couldn’t see a way out. There was nobody to provide for her, there was a multi-year drought, which meant poor crops and probably a famine.

Then this guy comes up and asks for a drink of water and her last biscuit.

After she tells Elijah her situation, he encourages her.

And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’ So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days.
— 1 Kings 17:13-15 (NKJV)

Wow.

Because she chose to believe God’s prophet when he said God would provide for all of them, she was blessed! 

Faith Isn’t Foolishness

It’s important to pay attention to what’s happening here. Elijah didn’t just pick someone at random and demand that they take care of him because he was God’s prophet. Being sent by God doesn’t give anybody the right to demand things of others. 

And the widow didn’t just decide to do something reckless because she thought that it would cause God to have pity on her. She didn’t just give a stranger the last of her food because she’d heard somebody teach that sacrificial giving will move the heart of heaven.

1) Elijah asked the widow to feed him because God told him she would.

2) The widow gave away her very last bit of resources because God’s prophet assured her that God wouldn’t let her and her son starve.

Romans 10:17 tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” True faith is in response to something God says to us.

That’s why it works.

When God speaks, He fulfills His word. When we respond and take action based on what God has said to us, that’s faith.

The Effective Prayer Is The One That Agrees With God

Every step along Elijah’s story where God tells him what to do and what to say, God fulfills His word. When we look at Elijah’s life, we find out how a “man with a nature like ours” can have such power: by obeying what God told him to do and speaking what God told him to speak.

CHALLENGE: When you come to God about a situation, listen for what God has to say about it. Search the Bible for examples of God’s will in similar situations, and be attentive to your heart as you read. Watch for God impressing you with the specifics to pray about. When we pray in agreement with the Father’s will for a situation, that’s when we see miracles

If you read the rest of Elijah's story, you'll find even more miracles: a boy raised from the dead, fire from heaven consuming a water-soaked offering without a match being lit, outrunning a horse-drawn chariot, being fed with angels' food, being taken directly to heaven without dying a natural death. Read it all in 1 Kings 18-19 and 2 Kings 1-2.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
— 1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV)

Picture credit: Public domain image of Elijah provided under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License by La Vista Church of Christ.