Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Serious Prayer

Reading Cent's post on prayer reminded me of the lesson we talked about last week in homegroup. (We're using Desiring God's new intergenerational lesson material Lord, Teach Us to Pray, from which this is taken).

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.

Elijah's Prayer

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.

God's Response

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.


Charles Sebold said...

"...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."

This is great advice, as is the notebook thing. I have had to pray right away when people ask me to pray, even if it's only for a minute and it isn't very polished or full-orbed or anything like that. Otherwise I definitely forget, and the last thing you want to do is tell somebody that you will take their cares before the Throne of Grace and then not do it. Pharaoh's cupbearer in Genesis 40 comes to mind. God is sovereign, but we should not undertake responsibility that we cannot fulfill, and bring a kingdom of priests to one another is definitely in that category.

Charles Sebold said...

I mean "being a kingdom of priests."

Nan said...

Hi, wife of revgot (lenscleanse) here. I just have to say, I see you EVERYWHERE I go in the blogosphere. I have randomly found links to you about 6 times this week. I just found a link to you on an atheist blog. That can't be anything but good news! :^)
God bless.

Gummby said...

Nan--I saw that Simon the Atheist was picking on you. He's about the closest I've ever been to being persecuted for the sake of Christ.

As for the 6x you found me, I can only say that I know a lot of great people out there on the 'Sphere.

BTW, if you haven't already done so, go back and read my comment on BugBlaster's post. You'll get a laugh out of it.

Mark said...

Good post dude - possibly one of the longest I have seen in a while, but my attention span in short as you know - that's why you read the whole books and I read the cliff notes. Wish I was more like you...

Nan said...

Well, in the blogosphere I'm a newbie. A wee bairn of a blogger (and let's face it... I'm a "mom-blogger." I try to avoid controversy... on my own blog that is!) I'm afraid I didn't know what I was embarking on by commenting on Pilgrim's blog!
I did read *all* the comments in that one thread. Great job at staying on top of it and remaining civil! :^D
Hats off. (Now you will be mocked as someone that the idiots, like me, flock to and call a hero when you know... it's obvious that you are really a mindless numbskull.) ;^)

Gummby said...

Mark: I did a word count, and it was too long. I originally intended to make two posts, and I should have gone with that. It's fixed now.

Nan: harldly a hero. Just a guy who's trying to stand up for what's right. I don't mind being called a numbskull. Simon's already called me far worse.

BTW, if you're looking for post ideas, Mrs. G wants to hear the story about how you and the Rev met.