There are many reasons to pray. The most important is to understand God’s will and ways better. But we’d like our prayers answered too, wouldn’t we? Elijah is known for effective prayer. He’s a great example to us.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 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 earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. (Jas. 5:16-18)
James singles out Elijah’s precipitation prayers. Elijah lived in a confused society. Leaders and people in droves were swallowing the pagan lie that Ba’al, the storm god, was sovereign over weather and harvests. Elijah initiated three-and-a-half rainless years as a miraculous sign from God. It ended with a tiny cloud that mushroomed to blacken the sky and pour torrential rain that turned dust to mud. Rainmaking was no party trick; it demonstrated that God provided, not Ba’al. Elijah prayed with a clear understanding of the national spiritual contention, and long experience of God’s provision for him. God answered his prayer.
Elijah did more than make rain; he influenced local, national, and international affairs. His last assignment was as kingmaker for Israel and Aram. Elijah’s prayers got results.
But is Elijah really such a good example? Surely we can never pray like the prophet. James’ point is precisely that Elijah was just like us—he struggled. Read his story in First Kings and notice his battle with depression. What made the difference in his prayer life was his stubborn refusal to stop looking to God for answers no matter what his circumstances or his mood were. Every one of us can choose to live and pray like that.
James introduces Elijah as an example of a righteous intercessor. Notice he does not say perfect. Righteousness is not perfection; no one is perfect except Jesus. But everyone who puts their faith in Jesus’ death on our behalf is counted righteous by God. In simple terms, it means we can stand before God knowing He accepts us. On that firm basis, every believer can aspire to Elijah-like, effective prayer.
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