Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;…” Like Elijah.
James 5:16b-18 (NIV) says “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 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.” Years ago, as a Christian high school student, I memorized part of this scripture in the King James Version: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I have never forgotten the verse, but I have often forgotten to pray Elijah’s way.
Part of Elijah’s story is found in I Kings 17. Verse 1 says, “… ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’ “ Verse 5 says, “… he (Elijah) did what the Lord had told him.” I am reminded that Elijah’s prayers were initiated and prompted by God, and not by Elijah himself. He was responding to a call. He was obedient. God communicated with Elijah first. Then, Elijah displayed God’s glory as a righteous man who prayed effectively and fervently.
The story of Elijah’s interaction with the Widow at Zarephath (I Kings 17:7-24) indicates that Elijah was sent to the widow by God. God initiated the mission. And, against the widow’s serious doubts, God provided ample flour and oil beyond the almost empty containers she had. She witnessed manna from heaven.
When the widow’s son passed away unexpectedly, Elijah cried out to the Lord, and the Lord resurrected the widow’s son. Elijah was on the spot to pray because he had been sent there by God. It was no coincidence. This was the first resurrection recorded in scripture. In this ancient society, the widow’s son was her only hope for future security, making this miracle especially significant. As a non-Israelite, the widow received a covenant blessing that introduced God’s resurrection power to the world. Elijah was there for a reason. God initiated. Elijah prayed. Resurrection happened.
In I Kings 8, the vision for building the Temple was planted in David’s heart by God, but then carried out later by David’s son Solomon. Another initiation by God. Prayers moved the vision along in unseen ways, at least as far as David was concerned. “Behind the scenes” is a significant place for prayer to occur. Nehemiah 4:13-14 says, “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’ ”
The rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall revealed an important prayer principle. Effective and fervent prayer always fills the exposed places behind the lowest points, similar to a battle strategy. Prayer protects the vision and enables God’s plans to be carried out wisely and safely. When we are called to pray, we can be sure that God initiated the call and that we’ve been placed in a strategic battle post by Him.
I John 5:14-15 affirms, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of Him.”
Elijah was a man just like us. I want to pray like Elijah – effectively and fervently. And confidently.