On Sunday, June 11, 2017, the Armenian Church will celebrate the feast of the one of the biggest prophets of the Old Testament, the Prophet Elijah. And on that occasion, our Church invites us to meditate on prayer by this beautiful passage of the Apostle James.
“13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest”. James 5:13-18
Prayer was so much a part of Elijah’s life that when James, brother of our Lord Jesus, wanted an example of the value of “effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man” it was to Elijah’s life that he points.
Since Elijah is such a good example of powerful prayer, let us take a few moments and examine what we can learn about prayer. I want to spotlight three lessons that will help us as we try to learn how to pray with power.
The setting I hope is familiar to you. Elijah had just had a giant face-off with the prophets of Baal and Asherah. It was a contest to see once and for all who the true God really was. The Lord God proved Himself to be the Almighty God and the false prophets were executed. It was a glorious victory but there was still a problem. The country was still in a horrible drought. (1 Kings 18:25-29)
The story tells us that Elijah withdrew from the crowds and found a quiet place where he could pray. What a relief for Elijah to get alone in the presence of God after all the noise and excitement he had experienced! This simple fact is a valuable lesson for us. If we want to communicate with God, if we want to see His power evidenced in our lives, we must set time aside to be with him privately.
1. Elijah Prayed in Humility
The Bible says that Elijah bowed himself before the presence of the Lord. The man of God had stood tall as an ambassador of the Lord, and now he bows low as an intercessor before the Lord! It would do us good to remember that God does not exist merely to answer our prayers or fulfill our wishes. He is God and He will honor the person who comes into his presence humbly. All we need do is remember the condition, and that will help us to be humble in the presence of the Lord.
2. Elijah Prayed With Confidence
Elijah kept praying and kept sending his servant to look to the sea. Why? Because he was operating in faith in the promise of God. He knew the rains were coming. He was confident that God would answer him. He was expecting big things from God!
In James 1 we are told: "5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." The point is clear: if we pray (for wisdom or anything else) and doubt, our prayer will be ineffective.
One summer, a drought threatened the crop in a small town. On a hot and dry Sunday, the village pastor told his congregation, "There isn't anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain. The people did as they were told and returned to church the following Sunday. But as soon as the pastor saw them, he was furious. "We can't worship today. You do not yet believe," he said. "But," they protested, "we prayed, and we do believe." "Believe?" he responded. "Then where are your umbrellas?"
Praying for rain is one thing. Taking your umbrella with you is another.
3. Elijah prayed with persistence
Elijah applied himself to prayer and then kept praying until the Lord answered. Seven times Elijah sent his servant to check the skies for a sign of a coming storm.
How different this is from the way we often pray! We ask God for something and then we either never think of it again or we give up and conclude that God is not going to answer our prayer. Persistence in prayer is a sign of faith and good things happen in response to persevering prayer.
Elijah’s prayer was answered not because of how eloquent it was, not how long it was, nor how loud it was; it was effective because it was humble, expectant and persistent.
The person who prays with humility, confidence, and persistence reveals a healthy and strong relationship with God. A person who prays only as a last resort shows a superficial dimension to his/her spiritual life. Our God is the Lord over creation. He controls the elements and the circumstances of life. He loves us, He can help us, He wants to help us. All we need to do is ask.