Lessons on Prayer From Elijah
James brings up the subject of prayer by the phrase, “Elijah was a man just like us, he prayed earnestly…” What he is trying to tell us is that although Elijah was a man just like us, the difference between him and us is in the way he prayed! He did not just pray; he prayed earnestly and had a lot of results from his prayers. We can learn a lot from Elijah. This story is found in 1 Kings 17 where Elijah became frustrated with Ahab because he had left God and worshiped an idol in the name of Baal. Elijah says to him “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, (he stood before God praying), there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word”. Then in 1 Kings 18:1 it says “And it came to pass after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”
God sent Elijah to Ahab, the man he had run away from three years before. One thing that we can see from this is that we must learn to hear the Word of the Lord and to pick up His instructions if we are to overcome our fears. Elijah understood that now that God has sent me then God is with me. In verse 8 he tells Obadiah “It is I. Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.” See how confident he is because God has spoken to him and he comes with an answer and a solution to a three year problem. But before Elijah can talk about the rain there is a grudge that must be settled against the prophets of Baal who caused Ahab to turn away from God. Elijah then challenges them in 1 Kings 18:22-24 because he has confidence in his God and wants to settle this matter once and for all by restoring the true worship of God.
The prophets of Baal began by grabbing the bull and laying it on a broken alter as they tried in vain to prove that their god was true. They called on their god but there was no voice and no answer. When it was Elijah’s turn, he first repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. He did not rush for the bull because the altar was more important than the sacrifice in the worship of God.
This altar represents our hearts. When our hearts are clean, God will respond to our prayers. Elijah went on to cut the bull in pieces, laid it down and ordered them to fill four water pots with water and pour it on the offering three times before praying to God. Immediately after the prayer, the fire of the Lord came down and consumed the sacrifice and everything surrounding it. The broken alter had been repaired. Sometimes we pray with hearts that are out of sink, no wonder nothing happens just like the prophets of Baal.
Notice that it took 450 men to kill the bull, but Elijah was alone in his approach. When it was his turn he left the bull alone and concentrated on the condition of the altar. If you want to have Elijah’s results then don’t rush for the bull because the bull is not the problem. Our problem is that we jump for the bull first when we don’t have the strength to vanquish it. If you want God to work with you then build an altar first and leave the bull alone because if the altar is right then the sacrifice will be consumed and the true God will be known. The issue with some of us is that we present our sacrifices from broken altars and so God is not responding. Elijah understood God’s way of the alter needing to be in place first.
Jesus Himself said in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” Jesus was telling us to repair the altar of our hearts. Your heart attitude is important to God when you stand praying. If you pray and there is still unforgiveness lingering in your heart, then that’s a broken alter. James 5:16 says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” What James is trying to tell us is that in order for these things to work we must repair the altar by confessing our sins to one another, and then pray. The fire of God will not come to your alter if there is sin in your heart. So pay attention to your altar when you pray. If we understand this things will begin to happen for us just like it did for Elijah, who ‘was a man like us’. Instead we are busy making sacrifices on a broken alter thinking that grabbing the bull will make things work but we need to understand that the fire comes from God and God required an altar that is not broken. Your heart is your prayer altar! Keep it acceptable to God. David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). He was rebuilding his alter. The bible even warns us to guard our hearts diligently, in Proverbs 4:23. This is because your alter must be ready for prayer.
The work of fixing your heart is not easy. It requires humility, grace, and mercy. Notice that as soon as Elijah sorted everything out about the altar, the fire came and consumed everything. He did not spend all afternoon praying like the other camp. Let us also not forget that this was not actually the assignment that God sent him for. His assignment was for him to go and tell them that God will bring rain. But before the rain came the altars had to be restored, and the prophets of Baal had to be dealt with.
After God proved Himself, Elijah said to them “seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape…” He destroyed them and drowned their bodies in the river. In our hearts there are Baal’s prophets somewhere trying to take territory and we must identify them, seize them and destroy them. For some it may be hypocrisy, for others unforgiveness, or lack of mercy, or whatever; and it’s your job to seize every ungodly thing and to execute it from your heart for the rain to come. Our rain is the Holy Spirit. Without Him you will remain dry and barren. No one can give the Holy Spirit but God.
Also, the fact that the fire came does not mean there will be water; so don’t get carried away by the sacrifice that is consumed because what is actually needed is water in order for the famine to end. Before the rain comes seize the defilers of the alter! Seize that which takes the place of God in your heart and repair the altar. When you stand to pray sort out the broken alters so that the sacrifice may be consumed. It was indeed a good miracle that the bull was slaughtered and the fire came, but was that the promise? No. The promise was rain. Obey right through to the finish of the instruction where the rain comes as well. Revelations 5:8 say’s that there are vials full of the prayers of the saints that are always presented before God. How full is your bowl? Learn to pray earnestly.
In verse 38-39 when the fire came and the people saw this “they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!” The purpose of ministry is to bring people to prayer, just as Jesus said, “my house shall be called a house of prayer”. But today prayer is the last thing we want to do in the church. All we want is to sing, play the keyboard, and lay out the chairs but what we ought to do ultimately is to pray. We need to bring people to a place and position of prayer where God alone is glorified. Learn not to do things because you want to but because God is God and He has said you must do it, be it through His voice or His prophets.
Before Elijah had run away but after he received the word of God he came back and dealt with the problem of ungodliness. Learn to look back into your life and sort out those things that you once ran away from because there are things that need to be cut off and thrown into the river.
If there are prophets of Baal in heart and you don’t seize them, you will remain in the drought. But when you seize them God will help you to kill them. After which the rain will come and you will be refreshed.
View Previous Articles
15 June 2014 – Fathers Arise
8 June 2014 – Pentecost
25 May 2014 – Be Prepared
18 May 2014 – The Church is a Place of Prayer
11 May 2014 – Values and Standards
27 April 2014 – It’s Time to Dig
20 April 2014 – Easter Sunday: The Facts About Resurrection
13 April 2014 – Our God is Holy
30 March 2014 – Mothers Day: The Great Mothers of the Bible
27 March 2014 – Beware Of Rebellion
18 March 2014 – God That Helps His People
12 March 2014 – The 5 Key Concepts of the Bible
13 February 2014 – The Power of Discipleship
19 January 2014 – Benefits of Fasting
12 January 2014 – Do Christians Have to Fast?
24 November 2013 – What Kind of A Christian Are You?
17 November 2013 – How Much Do We Trust God
10 November 2013 – Remembrance Sunday
03 November 2013 – Unity and Diversity One Body