Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:17-18I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and I came upon the stories of Elijah. Over the last few years, Elijah has become one of my favorite biblical characters. But as I read through the stories of his life yet again, I began to reflect on the biblical truth that Elijah was a man just like us. And yet, his life was so powerful!
Elijah lived an amazing life. He was fed by ravens. He saw the widow’s supply of oil and flour miraculously never run out. He raised her son back to life. And he faced down the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.
What was it about Elijah that made his prayers, his life, so powerful and effective? What can we learn from the life of Elijah to help our own prayer lives?
Elijah learned to be completely dependent on God. After Elijah’s first confrontation with King Ahab, God sent him to the Kerith Brook. There Elijah sat, no food, no provisions. But God saw his needs. It was there, with everything stripped away, that God sent ravens to bring him food.
So Elijah did as the Lordtold him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:5-6
Elijah was in hiding from the evil King Ahab. He had no way to meet his own needs. He was completely at the mercy of God himself, doing his best to walk in obedience. And God, Jehovah Jireh, provided as only He can.
Even when the brook dried up, Elijah had no need to fear. His source of provision dried up, but His God’s faithfulness didn’t. He went to the widow of Zarephath, completely convinced of God’s faithfulness to provide for his needs. And, as before, God did what only He could do.
Elijah prayed boldly for God-sized miracles. Elijah didn’t mess around with small requests for God. He went straight to big requests. Pray for a drought in the land. Raise the widow’s son from the dead. Call down fire from heaven to consume the offering on Mount Carmel.
At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 1 Kings 18:36, 38
Elijah was bold. He asked with incredible faith, believing that God was able. He believed that God was faithful, that He answers prayers. He called on God with enough faith to believe God would answer even the most audacious prayer.
And, without fail, God answered those audacious prayers. He poured out His power repeatedly, giving Elijah opportunity to proclaim God’s greatness.
Elijah’s prayers pointed the world back to God. Elijah was completely in tune with God. He listened for Yahweh’s voice, and he walked in obedience (1 Kings 18:36). He prayed in agreement with what God asked of him. And, his prayers pointed the world back to God.
The widow’s flour and oil never running out? A reminder that God sees our needs and provides. Raising the widow’s son from the dead? A reminder that he cares about our deepest hurts. The drought? A reminder that even the winds and the storms are subject to His control. Hear it in Elijah’s own words:
O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” 1 Kings 18:37
Yes, Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume the water and the sacrifices not for his own glory, but so others would know that Yahweh is God and there is no other God in heaven or earth. Elijah’s prayers were about pointing the world back to God.
Elijah prayed fervently until he saw the answer. Elijah knew that sometimes an answer doesn’t come immediately. He knew that we must pray until we see the breakthrough. And, he was committed for the long haul.
Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’” And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel.1 Kings 18:42b-45
Elijah had prayed the drought into existence. Now, it was time for the drought to end. He began to petition the God of the universe for rain. Not a little rain, but enough rain to quench the thirst of the land. He asked. No response. He asked again. Still no response. Seven times he asked and sent his servant to look for an answer. He prayed expecting an answer.
Finally, after seven times, a small cloud began to form. Even just a small indication that God had heard his prayer was enough. He knew a small cloud indicated God was moving in response to his prayers. And, God did exactly what he asked. He ended the drought. He sent rain on the land.
Elijah prayed through until he received an answer.
How can we tap into God’s power? How can we, ordinary men just like Elijah, experience the power of God moving in response to our prayers?
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16
We must be willing to confess our sins. We must admit our weaknesses, our failures. It’s in admitting our sins, in being honest and vulnerable with others, that we find healing. It’s through praying with others and for others that we find ourselves focusing on the character of God, on his faithfulness. It’s through confession and prayer that we position ourselves to live righteous lives, to see answers to our prayers.
We must pray earnestly, fervently. We must not give up. We must continually come before the Father asking Him to hear us, to answer. We must have an attitude of expectation (Psalm 5:3), believing that God is able and willing to answer our prayers.
We must remember that it is God’s faithfulness that we are calling on, his character. It’s about a God who longs to connect with us, to help us in our time of need. We must have faith that He is willing and able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.
We must remember prayer is about ordinary people calling on an Omnipotent God. Will you join Him?
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three amazing kids. Her greatest desire is to use her darkest days—days marred by adultery and divorce—to encourage others to find the joy of a life restored by Jesus Christ.
Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization with a mission of bringing hope to lives broken by the pain of this world. Her first book, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding Your Life After the Storms of Adultery and Divorce, will be released later this year.
In her spare time, Dena works as a Registered Nurse and is a regular contributor at Crosswalk.com. If you would like to contact Dena, please feel free to interact with her on her blog Dena Johnson Ministries or email her at Dena@denajohnson.com.
Publication date: April 6, 2016