Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:17-18, ESV)
Is Elijah Really Just Like Us?
What about Elijah? Was he really a man like us, or was there something different about him? God used him mightily, obviously. Yet I think we can safely say that he is like us.
Consider this: after the great defeat of the 450 Baal prophets (a favorite of TR's everywhere, BTW, as it provides a key prooftext for the idea that sarcasm is a spiritual gift), we read this:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow." Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." (1 Ki 19:1-4)
So after God turns the odds in his favor against 450 false prophets, Elijah runs away in fear for his life from Jezebel. Yeah, he's like me--I would have run from Jezebel, too. She was bad news!
Despite his failure to trust, God continues to use Elijah, and even his departure from this world is unique.
One other thing I wanted to mention about Elijah was his prayer.
And at the time of the offering. . . Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back." (1 Ki 18:36-37, ESV)
This is a great model prayer. Look at what Elijah does.
First, he addresses God as Lord, God in Israel, and recognizes that he is God's servant. He has the right perspective--his place and God's place.
Second, when he references Abraham, Isaac, & Israel, he is remembering God's faithfulness (this is one of the reasons why we struggle with what's discussed here--we forget God's faithfulness to us and to all generations). God is a promise-keeping God.
Third, his focus is mainly on God & His glory. How many times have your heard (or prayed) prayers that focused mainly on yourself or others? What a difference this prayer is from my own average prayer.
Finally, he prays for the people, that they would see God's greatness and turn back to Him. That is one of the main reasons for God displaying His glory, so that people would turn to Him.
What was God's answer to prayer?
Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God." (1 Ki 18:38-39, ESV)
God answered Elijah's prayer, and what he prayed for came to pass.
Let me close with this: prayer is a powerful weapon. Often times it is something we do only as a last resort, instead of making it our first order of business. More than that, how often have you, like me, told someone you would pray for them, only to forget about them until much later--sometimes even until their request has been answered?
I hope you're not like me, but if you are, resolve today to change that.
Start taking prayer more seriously.
Stop right now and pray for Frank, and for Libbie, and anyone else God has brought up to you recently, and make it a point that when someone asks you to pray for them to do it right then. Not only will it keep you from being a liar, you'll be amazed at how much easier it is to remember those requests, and how encouraging it will be to that other person.
Finally, figure out a way to keep track of God's answers to prayers. I've started keeping a spiral notebook of prayers and answers--because I too often forget God's faithfulness. Not only does the Bible testify to God's faithfulness, but so does everyday life, if only we would notice. By keeping track of prayers and their answers, you will create yet another record of God's faithfulness, and that will be something you can fall back on the next time it seems like "everything negative in my life church-related."
Note: my brother thought this post was too long, and he was right. I moved the addendum here.