1st Kings 18
36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
There have been moments in all of our lives where we have wondered about God. We have wondered where God was and whether God was even hearing our prayers. I don’t know how you might feel, but lately, during this pandemic, after every death, I have asked God, “What’s going on? God, do you hear our prayers?”
Sometimes, when I feel like God isn’t listening, I remember a story that a bishop shared with me when I spent some time in India. I asked him how he handled God’s occasional silence. He shared a story with me that he said often helped him get throughthose times. He told me there was once a Hindu woman who came to the missionary. She asked the bishop to pray for her – but it was not a usual prayer request. She wanted the bishop to pray to interfere and prevent her Christian neighbor from praying for her anymore. She visited the bishop for several years, making the same request. After about two years, the bishop finally asked how she knew her Christian neighbor was praying for her. She said that she knew because she used to be able to pray to her Hindu gods and worship her idols with ease,but for some reason lately, she had not been able to do so and now her sons and daughters have become Christians. She was afraid that if he continued to pray, he would make her a Christian too. She knew that he was always talking to God andshe began to realize that he was bringing things to pass with his prayers.
Well, by the time we meet Elijah in 1st Kings 18, we meet a manlike the Hindu’s neighbor. We meet a man partnering with God in prayer. We meet a man who recognized the importance of prayer; a man who consistently sought God; a man who saw what it means when you pray God’s will for God’s people; a man who learned that God does indeed hear our prayers. Elijah had prayed to God for a struggling widow so that she and her son would have enough meal and oil… and they did. Then, Elijah later prayed this very same son back to life after an illness. By the time we meet him in chapter 18, Elijah is stillpraying. Now he’s praying for rain and I’m sure he too had moments where he wondered: “God, what’s going on? God, do you hear my prayers?” You see, things had gotten bad. It hadbeen 3 years and the people of Israel were in the middle of a crisis. There was a severe drought. They had no water, no crops, no food, and people were starving.
In chapter 18, Elijah provides for us a plan for partnering with God in prayer. We learn very quickly that a prayer partnership with God requires a few things from us:
That we take some action: Elijah was obedient to the things that God asked of him. He followed God’s instructions. When God told Elijah to go to the widow’s house and stay for a while,he prayed and did it. When God told Elijah to go speak to the king, he prayed, and he did it. When God told Elijah to point the people to God through a battle with Baal – he prayed and did it! Elijah lets us know that we have a part to play in this partnership– obedience!
That we be patient: Elijah learned to seek God fervently – even in the times when there was no immediate response. Elijah spent days hiding out, years praying for rain, but he did not give up. This lets us know that there will be moments where we too have to hang in there; moments that we are called to exercise patience while we wait on God. Our fear is that God isn’t going to show up. But, Elijah lets us know that God shows up for Israel – an Israel that was sinning and praying to other gods – so surely He can and will show up for us! Patience is filled with hope – thehope that God will show up for us!
That we pray: Elijah shares with us what to do while we wait. He prayed continually and was continually connected to God.
O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God.
Elijah learned that we cannot draw near to God apart from prayer. It’s about us communicating with God and God listening and responding. It is clear that God wanted to use Elijah’s prayers and that God can and will accomplish His will through the prayers of His people. God also hears our prayers and then pours out favor and mercy. God hears our prayers and then pours out love and kindness. God hears our prayers and thenpours out compassion and forgiveness.
Elijah prayed with a boldness and expectation that said that he realized that this partnership was based solely on his dependence on God. He understood that if his prayers were going to work,he needed to be in agreement with God. Elijah realized that he could rely on God – not just simply for the small things, but for God-sized miracles. Elijah was requesting to bring people back to life and praying for rain for an entire nation!
So, in this season, let’s work on an Elijah-sized partnership with God. We have to recognize that there will be moments that we too have to take some action and follow God’s instructions. There will be moments when we have to keep trusting God —even when we don’t see or hear anything. But, we know that at all times and with all things, we are to stay connected to God because when we stay connected, we will come to realize, like Elijah, who God is and who is in control.