In today’s passage, James encourages his readers with the power of prayer – a power that is available to them.
Jam. 5:17-18 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. (18) And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
Elias is the Greek form of the name Elijah. In yesterday’s passage, James encouraged the sick to call for the church elders so that they could pray for him. Today he reminds his readers of the tremendous power that God makes available through prayer. He offers the example of Elijah as evidence. The story James mentioned is recorded in 1 Kings 17.
1Ki. 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
God held back the rain for three and a half years in answer to that prayer. He did that as a form of judgment on His people for their sins. At the end of the time, Elijah prayed again and it rained:
1Ki. 18:42-45 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, (43) And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. (44) And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. (45) And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
This second prayer is even more instructive than his first prayer. Elijah prayed and kept on praying until he knew the answer was on its way. He didn’t need raindrops falling on his head to know God was sending the answer – just a little something.
Frankly, I think this probably has a lot to do with Elijah’s success in prayer. We’re tempted to think that Elijah got his prayers answered because he was, well, he was Elijah. That kind of thinking lets us off the hook. We can pray and not get answers because we’re not biblical heroes. That’s just the opposite of how God wants us to think about it.
James could have pointed to many powerful prayers offered by other Old Testament saints, but he picked Elijah. While Elijah was a great man, he also had his struggles. Most notable among them was:
1Ki. 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
James picked this man as an example of getting your prayers answered to encourage us. Elijah was a person like us – someone we can relate to. What we’re supposed to come away with from this is that God will answer our prayers, too. As Jesus said:
Mat. 7:7-11 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (8) For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (9) Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? (10) Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? (11) If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
How Are You Doing?
- Does God answer your prayers?
- Do you think of getting your prayers answered as something reserved for special people?
- If you’re not getting your prayers answered, have you accepted that as normal?
Finish the book of James by reading 5:19-20.