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. (verses 17-18)
“Elijah was a man just like us.” What a remarkable statement. Remarkable because Elijah saw phenomenal acts of power from the hand of God. Fire fell from heaven, burning up a water-drenched altar. Bread and meat were brought to him, morning and evening, by ravens. At his word, a widow’s jar of flour was not used up and her jug of oil did not run dry for the extent of the rainless days of famine. That widow’s son grew sick and died yet was brought back to life by the heartfelt cries of Elijah’s prayers. And, yes, Elijah prayed and there was no rain, and prayed again and the downpour commenced. What powerful acts of God occasioned by Elijah’s earnest prayers, acts beyond what I have seen.
Yet Elijah is just like us. We are just like him.
So, pray earnestly in faith. I’ve just recently reflected on the Heroes-of-Faith in Hebrews 11, where the author celebrates their depth of faith and emphasizes the reality that faith doesn’t always get to see what it hopes for. This passage in James 5 gives the balancing viewpoint, namely that Elijah’s faith saw powerful results. I find myself stretched by both these perspectives. Wait in patient faithfulness, yet pray with earnest passion, watching with expectant anticipation for the Lord’s answer.
I’m reminded that when Elijah prayed for that torrential downpour there was not a cloud in the sky. He prayed earnestly and the sky remained cloudless. He prayed more, sending his servant each time to scan the skies. Each time the answer came back negative. Until the seventh viewing. Not until then was there any encouragement whatsoever. And the encouragement, when it came, was only slight – a cloud as small as a man’s hand, rising from the sea. But it was enough. Elijah knew then that he had what he hoped for. The clouds grew, the sky turned black, the downpour was released, and the man of faith – a man just like me – received his answer.
I think I’m prone to give up too early, to look to the sky four or five times, then quit. To pray earnestly like Elijah means to press on through six, seven, eight or more negative sightings, not giving up, ever hopeful, certain of what is not yet seen.
He was just like me. He was just like us.
Which is important to note, because ultimately, it wasn’t about him anyway. Nor is it about us. Which of us, Elijah included, could ever produce rain anyway? Always, it’s about the Lord. He alone can make rain to fall, drenching both the just and the unjust.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (verse 16) because the Lord is the Lord. Like Elijah, then, I will lean into him.
Lord, stretch my faith into earnest prayers that anticipate your answer. Even when I don’t see it at first-sighting, or second, or sixth. I look to you for your intervention, just like Elijah of old.
Reflect: Look around you. What circumstance requires the Lord’s intervention? How will you pray? What steps will you take to “pray like Elijah”?