And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” I Kings 18:42-44
Yes I can confirm it is Friday, I checked the calendar this morning :-). As we have been studying Elijah, I have been observing one of the secondary elements to the stories; namely the role and the process of prayer in the life of the prophet. Prayer seems to be part of the prophets job description as a covenant intercessor. Elijah is certainly known as a man of prayer (cf. James 5:16b-18). But two things stand out as interesting in observing Elijah and prayer. The first is that sometimes God seems to answer Elijah’s prayers almost immediately (cf. 17:1 and the drought, 18:26-28 and the sending of fire) while other times there are multiple entreaties before the Lord answers (cf. 17:21 and the three-fold prayer for the boy’s life or 18:42-44 and the seven-fold prayer for rain). This matches my own experience in which sometimes God seems to answer prayers almost immediately, while other times it seems that the path forward is to keep praying, still waiting on the Lord to answer.
The second thing that is interesting to note is that when Elijah prays for rain, he is praying for something that God has already told Elijah he would do (cf. 18:1). Rather than seeing this as an unnecessary redundancy, it seems better to see this as the graciousness of a God who invites us into the accomplishing of his will. While there are many mysterious things about prayer and and God’s sovereignty, we can confidently say that prayer is something our Heavenly Father invites us into relationally, not transactionally. We do not come to God as we would to an ATM, but rather we come to seek his heart even as we pour out ours. It is through prayer that the Bridegroom courts his bride. As those united to Christ by faith, we can be assured that he has determined to lay out such a path for us that will effectively navigate us to the halls of splendor. Our invitation is to let him take the lead and by our prayers clasp his hands and follow his steps.
I hope that this is some encouragement to you today. As the days of quarantine drag on, the bills pile up, relationships are strained, as losses mount and new paths are sought; may we continue to come to our Lord in prayer.
This Sunday we will be back with Elijah and the great confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18:17-45). I do truly look forward to opening this word with you.