This Week’s Staff Devotional
from Fred Carpenter
“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. 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. (18) Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” James 5:14-18 NASB
In James 5:15&16, we read about the effectiveness of a “prayer offered in faith.” And in verses 17&18, the prayers of Elijah are cited as an example of such a prayer. These examples are recorded in 1 Kings 17:1 and 1 Kings 18:1 & 18:42-46.
Elijah’s prayer In 1 Kings 17:1 reads more like a confident prophetic proclamation than a request, “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Because Elijah was a righteous man (Jas 5:16) and a prophet of God, we must conclude that these words did not originate from Elijah’s self-initiative, but from God’s revelation to Elijah. Elijah was praying in accordance with God’s will.
In chapter 18, we find it explicitly stated that God told Elijah exactly what to do and say, (18:1) “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.” Then Elijah went up Mt. Carmel, got on his knees, and again, prayed in accordance with God’s revealed will. This account is given to us in James 5:17&18 so that we might know how to pray today.
In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is not an emotional disposition or an intellectual position. Faith is a spiritual condition. It originates not from man, but from God (Rom.12:3). Elijah’s prayer was a “prayer offered in faith” because God gave him “the conviction of things not seen” and Elijah prayed out that conviction. And because the prayer was from God, it came to pass. To use the language of James 5, it was an “effective” prayer.
However, in between Elijah’s prayer at the beginning of 1 Kings 17 and the one at the end of chapter 18, we find a different type of prayer from Elijah. He is hiding out in a widow’s house when her son becomes ill to the point of death. The widow blames Elijah for the calamity. Elijah takes the son upstairs and throws himself over the boy’s body 3 times, crying out to God, “O LORD my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s life return to him” (17:21). This prayer was not cited in James 5 as “a prayer offered in faith.” This prayer was the desperate cry of Elijah’s heart for God to do what only God could do. And in His mercy and grace, God heard his cry and raised the boy!
It is wonderful when God gives us a conviction regarding how we should pray. I do not doubt there have been times in my life when I’ve not had a conviction regarding how to pray because I’ve not pushed through in prayer to receive the conviction. But I believe there have also been times when I’ve fervently sought a conviction concerning how He would have me pray and the conviction never came. In those times, I am so glad for the record of Elijah’s prayer over the widow’s son. It was not cited in James as a “prayer offered in faith”, yet I am certain that Elijah had complete confidence and faith in the One to whom he was praying!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – Philippians 4:6 NASB
Some take-aways by our staff:
1) We would do well to ask God what we should pray about and how we should pray about it before we move hastily into prayer.
2) If faith is from God, then we can’t pray a “prayer offered in faith” unless God gives us the faith to do so.
3) We should not hesitate to express our concerns to God.