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Memory Verse: Psalm 50:15
Further Study: 1 Kings 18; Prophets and Kings, 137-160; The Bible Story, vol. 5, pp. 26-37
“Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again” (1 Kings 18:37).
To say that prayer is important is to state the obvious. I have no doubt that those reading this devotion are people of prayer. And yet, as I have studied Elijah’s story, I have gained a new understanding. All of Elijah’s experience can be traced back to prayer.
All of Elijah’s experience can be traced back to prayer.
Do not limit a limitless God. The widow of Zarephath’s son died unexpectedly. Why this tragedy occurred in the midst of God’s blessings we do not know. But Elijah’s first inclination was to pray. Think about this. The boy died. What could Elijah pray for? Only what was lacking—the boy’s life. This child’s resurrection is the first recorded in Scripture. Elijah prayed for something he’d never seen. While I’m not advocating we do this when death presents itself, it is a reminder of a powerful God. This same God will resurrect and return our faithful loved ones to our embrace one day.
It’s not how we pray, but about the God who answers. There is a showdown on Mount Carmel as to which God is supreme. The priests of Baal exhausted themselves as they cried to an unhearing god. Their shouts filled the air for most of the day. In comparison, Elijah utters a quiet prayer that lasts about a minute. It is simple, direct, and confident. An immediate response of fire consumed not only the sacrifice, but the altar itself. It isn’t how long one prays or the fervency of worship that brings response. It’s the confidence and faith in a powerful God.
It isn’t how long one prays or the fervency of worship that brings response.
Prayer recognizes the need of sacrifice. Elijah recognized that to pray for rain before the sacrifice would be useless. The reason for the drought was the sin of the people. His prayer at Mount Carmel was accompanied by a sacrifice to make atonement for the people. To come into the presence of God without recognizing the need for forgiveness was to discount His holiness. We don’t offer sacrifices today, but each time we pray, we enter the presence of God. Each time we must remember our sinful condition. Confession and the acknowledgement of Christ’s sacrifice for us is of vital importance to prayer.
Don’t stop praying. Seven times Elijah prayed for rain. He knew rain was coming, for it had been promised. He heard the sound of rain, not in his ear, but his heart. His faith was confident, but he didn’t assume. He asked. And asked again. The act of persistent prayer affects the one praying. Had God answered the first time, Elijah may not have fully searched his heart or recognized it was not his power that brought the rain. Even a prophet can blur the lines between what they do and what God is doing through them. Persistent prayer changes our reliance on God.
Persistent prayer changes our reliance on God.
Before Elijah did anything on Mount Carmel, he carefully rebuilt the altar, fallen apart from neglect. It may be that we too need to rebuild the altar, whether as individuals or for family. We need to daily seek His presence. For it is around this altar we will discover the same faith of Elijah and will be renewed.
During Jesus’ transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared on either side. Many commentators mention the parallels of these two prophets. Consider these:
- Both confronted an angry king (1 Kings 17:1; Ex. 5:1)
- Both fled to the wilderness (1 Kings 19:3; Ex. 2:15)
- Both were miraculously fed (1 Kings 17:6; Ex. 16:8, 12).
- Both had offerings accepted by fire (1 Kings 18:36-39; Lev. 9:22-24).
- Both prayed they might die (1 Kings 19:4; Num. 11:10-15)
- Elijah mocked the gods of Ahab (1 Kings 18:20-40); the plagues announced by Moses humiliated the Egyptian gods (Ex. 7:8-13, 20-23; 8:1-7).
- Both are hidden in a cave [cleft of the rock] on the same mountain [Sinai/Horeb] (1 Kings 19:9-11; Ex. 33:21-23).
- Both went without food for 40 days and nights (1 Kings 19:8; Ex. 34:38; Deut. 9:9).
- Storm, earthquake, and fire were all part of God’s appearance on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:16; 20:18; Deut. 4:11, 24). God sends fire, wind, and earthquake to Elijah in the cave.
- Both parted waters (2 Kings 2:8; Ex. 14:16, 21-22).
Making it Real
Re-examine your prayer life as it relates to the four principles in Elijah’s life. How does your prayer life compare? Are there ways you can change your prayers to make them more meaningful, personal, and persistent?
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.