The EFFECTIVE & POWERFUL prayer model of ELIJAH
April 12 Bible Reading: 1 Kings Chapters 16-18
"And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." And seven times he said, “Go again.” Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’” Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain." (1 Kings 18:42-45)
The book of James points to Prophet Elijah as a man with similar nature as ours, and highlights his prayer as effective and powerful with these words: "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit" (James 5:16-18). In fact, Elijah showed control over the very elements of nature through his prayers.
According to the New Testament, the drought that Elijah called upon the northern kingdom of Israel lasted for three and a half years (Luke 4:25). When Elijah appears before King Ahab dramatically in 1 Kings 17:1, he does not pray publicly to God for withholding the rain from Israel in front of Ahab. We don’t even know how long Elijah had prayed to God. However, we do know that Elijah got the assurance from God that his prayers have been answered, and that was when he got the courage to stand before King Ahab and boldly declare God’s judgment upon Israel.
However, the second prayer of Elijah for rain to be poured on Israel after three and half years has been described in detail in our key scriptural text (1 Kings 18:42-45). If we have to adopt Elijah’s prayer as a model for our own prayers, there are five things to note in Elijah’s prayer:
- Elijah prayed according to God’s plan and purpose for Israel. In fact, Elijah was distinctly aware that he stood before God earlier in prayer even as he declared the following word to King Ahab: "As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand..." (1 Kings 17:1). During the dark times that Elijah lived in, the nation of Israel had corrupted herself through rampant idol worship under the leadership of Ahab who did more evil and provoked God to anger more than all the kings before him (1 Kings 16:30-33). God’s plan was to use a man like Elijah to confront the wicked king publicly through the public showdown over at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:19-40). Elijah prayed to fulfill God’s plan, and his prayers were answered instantly (see John 15:7).
- Elijah was a righteous man, and so his prayers were answered readily (James 5:16). God’s Word declares that if we regard iniquity in our hearts, then God will not hear us (Psalms 66:18). We need to cleanse ourselves through the blood of Jesus by faith when we approach His throne of grace through prayer (1 John 1:9).
- Elijah prayed earnestly for God to intervene. This is evident from the description about Elijah’s prayer as: “he prayed earnestly that it would not rain” (James 5:17). Elijah’s earnestness was evident from the fact that while Ahab sat down to eat, Elijah ascended to the top of Mount Carmel and fervently asked the Lord to fulfill His word by sending rain (1 Kings 18:42).
- Elijah focused on God alone while he prayed (v. 42). While he prayed, Elijah bowed down on the ground and put his face between his knees as he cut himself off from the outside world. When we pray, we should also focus on God alone.
- Elijah repeatedly looked for the answer to his prayer (vv. 43-44). Elijah commanded his servant seven times to watch the horizon over the Mediterranean Sea to see if the answer for his prayer was on sight. Finally, when a rain cloud was sighted, so distant that it appeared no larger than a man’s hand, Ahab was convinced of an upcoming torrential rain. That little cloud proved to be a towering cumulonimbus cloud heralding the coming rainstorm over Israel!