The key that we need to live out our Godly purpose is not just our own labor and intellect but the supernatural intervention and assistance of God in our lives. Prayer and fasting helps us request, receive and experience the supernatural intervention of God in our lives.
We can learn about prayer from the life of Elijah. James exhorts us to pray like Elijah did.
James 5: 16b-18: The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
James tells us that though Elijah was a great prophet, he really was as human as any of us and that we too can receive the supernatural results as Elijah did through the power of prayer.
The below story is a great backdrop to understand some things about prayer from Elijah’s life. 1 Kings 18:41-46: And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.” The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.
This portion of the text that we are reading here occurs soon after a confrontation between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the idolatry in the land led by wicked king Ahab and his wife Jezebel and called the nation to choose whom it would serve - the Lord or Baal. We know that God answered Elijah’s simple prayer to consume the bull sacrifice while in contrast the 450 prophets of Baal could not get Baal to answer their prayers despite all kinds of appeasing.1. Pray with Faith according to God’s Will
The first thing we need to know about prayer is that we are speaking to a God who exists, who is listening to our prayers and working on our behalf. We need to turn away from every kind of idolatry and come to Him in faith. Elijah was praying for rain and the rain is sent to the land only once idolatry is dealt with.Hebrews 11:6: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
The faith that pleases God is the kind of faith that expects God to respond and answer. 1 John 5:14: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
Prayer is not about begging God to change His mind to come around to our side of thinking. Instead, it is about God changing our hearts and minds to come around to His. His will is better than what anything we can seek for ourselves. When we come to Him with this attitude to seek His face and seek His will, He will hear us and answer us!2. Pray with Expectation
It is God’s will that there will be rain in the land after 3 years of drought (see 1 Kings 18:1). Yet Elijah prays. Why do we need to pray when God has already willed something? God’s intervention in our life is often conditional based on our co-operation, alignment and agreement with His will. That is why in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray in the pattern of asking for His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Prayer is an expression of alignment to God’s will and affirming that we are co-operating with Him!
Elijah says “there is the sound of a heavy rain”
even before there is any rain! Elijah just declares and confesses the word of God that was spoken to Him. Prayer involves confessing God’s word and declaring that we are in alignment in faith and being in expectation to receive the answer. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Elijah is sure of what he does not see yet in the natural based on God’s word to him.3. Pray Birthing Prayers
Elijah separated himself to go and pray on Mt Carmel. Private prayer is so important if we want to see the will of God unfold in our lives and to experience breakthroughs. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says (Matthew 6:5-18), “When you pray”, “When you fast” and goes onto to emphasize that private devotion done in secret is far more effective and powerful than displays of praying in public.
Note the position of Elijah even as he prayed, he “bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees”
. This was a position of a woman in labor in Old Testament times. Elijah here is birthing the will of God as decreed in heaven here on earth. He is laboring in prayer in the Spirit to bring about the will of God on the basis of God’s word!
Jesus modelled this for us. Scripture tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Hebrews 5:7 tells us that “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”4. Pray with Persistence until Completion
Elijah sent his servant to check for the rain seven times! The number seven has significance as biblically seven is a number of completion. Very often, we ask how long do we pray for something? Note that Elijah kept praying and kept believing until completion. He did not allow the outward circumstance to affect his inward assurance that the answer was on the way. Jesus too reminds us to pray persistently. In Luke 18:1, Jesus told his disciples the parable of the persistent widow to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
At the seventh time, Elijah finally sees a small cloud as a man’s hand rising from the sea. This is so small, but Elijah asks Ahab to gear up for the shower! As soon as a tiny cloud appeared on the horizon, Elijah grabbed hold of it and claimed it as the answer. He did not hesitate; he did not wait until the cloud got a little bit bigger. We should not fail to notice the “small cloud” or small answers we receive after we have prayed.5. Pray with Fasting
Jesus expects us to fast as part of our Christian walk. Jesus said in Matthew 9:15, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast”
. Fasting is the spiritual link to the person of Christ while He is not here on earth with us.
Fasting is a deliberate abstinence from physical gratification usually going without food for a period to achieve a greater spiritual goal. Fasting is intentionally denying the body or flesh to gain a response from the spirit. There are many examples of fasting both in the Old Testament and New Testament. Jesus fasted for 40 days so that he could overcome the evil one.
Elijah too fasted. This happened soon after Elijah ran away in fear when Queen Jezebel threatened to take his life. Elijah was depressed and felt he could do not go on. God sent an angel to minister to him twice and gave him food to eat. After this he walked for 40 days and nights, fasting to meet with God in Mt. Horeb. God meets with Elijah and speaks to him in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12). This encounter with God after he had fasted restores Elijah to continue to live out his purpose.
Some practical ways to prepare for prayer and fasting include:1. Create a fasting and prayer plan.
What are the times you are going to pray? What kind of fasting are you going to engage in – a Daniel’s fast giving up meat or are you planning to skip a meal every day? If you are unable to fast food for medical reasons, perhaps you can instead abstain from social media, entertainment, addictions to get closer to God and spend time in prayer. 2. Prepare yourself physically.
Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat and sugary foods. Know you might have withdrawal symptoms you need to deal with when you give up sugar, coffee etc.3. Prepare yourself spiritually.
Ask God to show you areas to repent of. Take stock of your personal life and prepare a specific prayer list you want to seek God for. We have a 21-day Church prayer focus area
to pray together as a church each day. Join in for weekly All Church prayer meetings on Thursdays via zoom at 8pm.4. Apply the principles we learnt from Elijah.
Elijah experienced the full outpouring of the promised rain. He also received the power of God to even outrun Ahab’s chariot! Prayer and fasting is important if we are to experience God’s presence, His restoration and renewal, and the outworking of His purposes in our lives.Discussion Questions
1. Why is it important to know God’s will to pray effectively? How can we know God’s will in difficult situations?
2. Elijah says “there is the sound of a heavy rain” even before there is any rain.a. Why is Elijah confident that the rain will come? b. What are the specific actions that Elijah takes to birth and receive the rain?c. What are some shifts you need to make so that you are expectant and persistent like Elijah to receive answers of your prayers from God?
3. Elijah sent his servant to look for the rain seven times. How did Elijah keep operating in faith and persist even when the external circumstances did not line up to God’s word? How can we have inward assurance that the answer is on the way even when outward circumstances tell us otherwise?
4. Reflect on how Elijah received personal and spiritual restoration to his life and purpose on fasting. Why is fasting important in our prayer life? What are some of the benefits of fasting?
5. Why does James use Elijah as an example for praying powerful and effective prayers? James says that Elijah was a human being just as we are. a. Do you now agree that your prayers too can be powerful and effective in producing supernatural results like that of Elijah? Why or why not?b. What are some practical steps you need to take in your own life to close the gap?