“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.” James 5:17 (NIV)
Wait a minute…just like me? Really? You mean I can pray and control the rain?
James uses OT people to illustrate each of his major themes. For example, in James 2:21-25 he notes that the nature of faith is found in the lives of Abraham and Rahab. In this verse, powerful and effective prayer is exemplified by Elijah.
On the one hand, Elijah was an ordinary person with all of the short-comings and weaknesses that go along with being a human being. He experienced the same physical needs and emotional ups-and-downs we have. He needed food, water, and shelter (1 Kings 17:7f); he celebrated the victorious “highs” of Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18:38f) and suffered the “lows” of depression (1 Kings 19:3f). So, in this sense, Elijah was just like you and me–an ordinary human being.
On the other hand, Elijah was a “righteous man” (James 5:16) who according to James was effective in his praying because we was energized by God’s Spirit and earnest in his living. Here’s where I find the similarities between Elijah and me break down. Yes, we too are “righteous” in that God has put us in right relationship with himself through Jesus Christ, however Elijah had a graduate degree in “righteousness” while I feel we’re still in kindergarten. At least I am!
Elijah was energized by God’s Spirit by listening to and obeying the Lord. That is the secret of really knowing God intimately and personally. It’s not enough to know about God or about God’s truth. God’s goal for us is an authentic love relationship with him that is genuine and real. That happens when we hear and obey God. When we experience God this way we are energized by God’s presence in us. The secret to being energized is taking the time to listen to God and then to obey him. And that leads to the second point…
Elijah was earnest in his living. An authentic relationship with God does not express itself in “going through the motions” or “fulfilling a religious duty.” No! An intimate relationship with God demonstrates itself in the everyday little things of life—patience, standing firm, not grumbling, persevering, telling the truth, confessing our sins. Living earnestly means that we develop meaningful “holy habits” or “practices” that keep us close to God and living in ways that are according to his truth. And that leads to the conclusion…
Elijah was effective in his praying. Effective praying is prayer that serves God’s purpose. When we are energized by God’s Spirit and living earnestly…building the consistency of faithfulness…our prayers are shaped by God’s will, purpose, and ways. The end result is that when we pray what we pray for happens! God grants us our requests because he is pleased to use our prayers to accomplish his goals. [Some see prayer as a way to obligate God to give whatever they claim in faith. May it never be! God is pleased to use our prayers to accomplish his purposes and he delights in answering our needs, but he is never bound by our prayers.]
So, how do we graduate from kindergarten…to be energized, earnest, and effective like Elijah?
1. Listen to God
2. Know God
3. Obey God
4. Talk with God
5. Repeat as often as necessary (at least daily)
6. Do so for a lifetime
Will you enroll in the school of knowing God? I’m in! Are you?
Sunday’s sermon notes: 1 Kings 17, God is True to His Word