1 Kings 18:30–45
The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is amazing. What a stunning example of the power of God and of prayer. And at the end in verses 42 and 43 we have Elijah praying for the end of a 42-month drought. He prayed seven times. After seven times of prayer torrential rain came, and the land prospered again.
There is an explanation of this event in the New Testament. Turn with me to James 5:16 as we read the text.
‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.’
Not only did Elijah bring the rain by the power of his prayer, it was Elijah who had stopped the rain in the first place. It seems that righteous Elijah had prayers of great power. God appears to have needed Elijah. God used Elijah to accomplish his purpose through prayer.
Whose idea was it to send rain? Was it Elijah’s idea to end the drought? Turn back to 1 Kings 18 and look at verse 1. We read – ‘In the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!”’
God wanted to send the rain. God initiated the action. Then why did he need a human being to give birth to the rain by prayer? Maybe you didn’t realise what it means when it says Elijah knelt down with his head between his knees. That is the posture of giving birth and it symbolises travail in prayer.
And why if it was already God’s will and plan and intention did Elijah have to pray seven times before the rain came?
Seven is the biblical number of completion and it teaches us to pray until a task is accomplished. But if it is God’s will and God’s timing, why is there any need for perseverance? In this or any other prayer endeavour.
And finally, did Elijah’s prayers actually produce the rain or was it a coincidence? Did God arrange the prayer as a show and the rain would have come anyway?
James says, ‘The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’
God has chosen to work through humans. Even when he desperately and earnestly wants to do something, when it is his plan and he initiated it, God needs us to ask in prayer. Only by our prayer can the power of heaven come down to earth.
It is again a matter of relationship between us and God. God’s giving is inseparably connected to our asking.
There is another example of this in Daniel. Israel is captive in exile and Daniel is reading Jeremiah, where he finds a prophesy that says the captivity will last 70 years. Daniel realises at once that the time is up and release is at hand. A common reaction when we realise that a promise of revival, deliverance, healing etc. is about to be fulfilled is to sit back and wait passively for its fulfilment.
Daniel didn’t do that. Daniel began to pray. He knew somehow that God needed his involvement. This is what he says in Daniel 9:3 “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.”
Once Daniel started praying he kept on praying for God’s will. The angel Gabriel was immediately dispatched in response to Daniel’s prayer, but it took him 21 days to arrive because of warfare in the heavenly realms. Daniel 10:20.
What if Daniel had stopped praying after 20 days? How many times have any of us stopped praying too soon, instead of pressing on to completion. And in so doing we have frustrated the will of God.
God had made the prophesy and given it to Jeremiah. In that sense Daniel didn’t bring about something that God hadn’t already planned and purposed. But what if Daniel had not prayed through until completion?
God is not a dictator who arbitrarily imposes his will on us. He is not like your professor or your boss or the leader of a nation. We could say that God made the decision in heaven, and that man’s task is to enforce it on earth.
“There is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.”
Our prayers of intercession are an extension of the work of Jesus’ intercession.
What this means is that we are the representatives on earth of the work that Jesus is doing in heaven. We are temples of God’s spirit. We are ambassadors of Christ. We speak and pray with authority because we do not speak our words or pray for our own will. When we speak and pray we do it on his behalf and with his authority.
This is why Jesus said, As the father sent me, so I am sending you.
We are not producers. We are distributors. We hand out on his behalf, just as the disciples handed round the loaves and fishes.
Jesus the mediator wants to mediate through us. God the producer wants to distribute through us. The victor wants to see his victory claimed through us. God incarnates in this world through us.
We don’t need to defeat the enemy or save anyone. That has already been done. We ask for the release and application of what is already done.
We are sent by God into this world to walk in his authority as his representatives. When he has something to deliver, we have to deliver it. We collect it from him by prayer and share it out on earth as he directs.
Jesus is the head, you are the body. He is Christ, you are a Christ-ian.
There are wounded and hurting people everywhere you go. They are in your offices, serving you in the restaurants and shops. They are chained up like the demoniac. Chained by alcohol, drugs, abuse, broken dreams, rejection, money, lust and so many more chains. Chained up and abandoned, ignored, hurting, lonely, afraid.
Plan A is for ordinary people like you and me to whole heartedly believe in the victory of Calvary, to be convinced it is complete and final. It is for us to rise up in our role as the sent ones, ambassadors of Christ, authorised representatives of the victor. It is for us to deliver the deliverance he has won. It is for us to share out the healing he has produced.
Plan B is for us to waste the cross and abandon these people to their misery. Plan B is for us to drown out their screams with our entertainment systems.
There is a God who cares, and he is calling you to represent him. He is asking you to engage in earnest prayer until it is complete. He wants to set them free, he just needs you to press on in prayer and deliver his freedom to them.
Your prayer is powerful because God makes it powerful. As you earnestly petition God for his people, he will use your prayers to accomplish his will. Intercessory prayer is a vital ingredient. When God looks for someone to stand in the gap, will he find them here today. Will you answer God’s invitation, and respond to his need for people to pray.