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.—James 5:17
So many times I have found myself and my Christian friends saying, “All we can do is pray” when we feel powerless—when a loved one is dying, when a relationship is gasping for air, when jobs disappear and finances dry up. We say this with resignation, as if prayer is some trivial thing or our last-ditch effort. In truth, prayer is our greatest and least valued weapon.
We meet Elijah in 1 Kings 17, when he told Israel’s evil King Ahab that God would send no rain for years “except at my word” (verse 1). More than three years later, the drought ended right on the heels of another powerful demonstration of prayer on Mount Carmel as the Lord proved Himself to be the only true God.
Elijah was one of two faithful prophets to ascend to heaven without experiencing death (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11-12). Knowing only these accounts of his life would lead us to view him as a spiritual superhero. But the author of 1 Kings does not sugarcoat Elijah’s struggles with depression, pride and self-pity. He truly “was a man with a nature like ours.” The difference between Elijah and us is that “he prayed fervently.”
Fervent prayers are the antithesis of rote. They are passionate and intense. They arise from a fire in our hearts to see God move. They demonstrate wholehearted commitment and dependence. They acknowledge our inability and God’s unlimited ability. They are like the persistent pleas of the widow before the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). They are like the humble petition of the Samaritan woman who knew Jesus alone could heal her demon-possessed daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). They are an expression of worship (Luke 18:35-43).
When Elijah prayed at Mount Carmel, God sent fire from heaven to consume the doused altar and its sacrifice. When we pray fervently—with fiery hearts—God sends fire from heaven to demonstrate His power, His sovereignty and His unique ability to move in the world that He created.
I think of the Old Testament prophet Daniel, who prayed and fasted for three weeks after receiving a disturbing vision. Finally an angel came to him to explain the vision and the delay in God’s response to Daniel’s prayers.
“Don’t be afraid, Daniel. God has heard everything that you said ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in front of your God so that you could learn to understand things. I have come in response to your prayer. The commander of the Persian kingdom opposed me for 21 days. But then Michael, one of the chief commanders, came to help me because I was left alone with the kings of Persia.”—Daniel 10:12-13
Our fervent prayers encounter supernatural opposition because the enemy fears them. The enemy recognizes the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled (2 Corinthians 10:4-6). It’s time we did as well.
Go before God with fire and passion. Go before Him in humility and utter dependence. Go before Him with an attitude of worship. Prayer is a mighty weapon in the hands of a faithful warrior. Keep fighting, my friends, until the battle is won.