For many of us who have grown up in the church or have been part of the church for many years or have simply been involved with religion, the characters of the bible seem almost iconic. Who do you think of first? Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea, Daniel in the lion’s den, how about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Or maybe it is someone like Ruth or Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Sometimes when we look at those we read about and listen to the amazing faith and godliness which they portrayed, we place them on pedestals, seemingly beyond anything we might be able to exhibit in our lives.
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…
James 5:17, NKJV
The prophet Elijah is one of those “iconic” characters in the bible. In 1st Kings 17-19 we read of some of his life and service to God. In chapter 17:17-24 we read of him praying to the Lord on behalf of a widow whose son had died, resulting in God raising him from the dead. In chapter 18:20-40 Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal (450 of them) to call on their gods and he will call on God and see whose altar would be consumed by fire. Of course, you know the outcome. Then, there is the event which James speaks of that actually starts in chapter 17:1 where Elijah says, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my words.” This man, who seemed to have such a powerful connection with God is no different from you or me! I like how the ETRV translates James 5:17, “Elijah was a person the same as us.” He had no special power or inroads to the great I am. What he did have, is something we all can have; that is, conviction that God is listening and working in the life of the believer.
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
James 5:16, NKJV
As James pens these words to Christians, he uses the example of Elijah to encourage them to be vigilant in prayer. Prayer makes a difference! Your prayers make a difference! Sometimes, we need to be resilient in prayer for the answer does not come so quickly, like in the case of Elijah. He prayed for the rain to return, but it took seven times before his servant came back with the news that “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” (1st Kings 18:44)
Think about it, Elijah is no different than any of us who are in Christ. Like him, our prayers can be powerful. The ETRV translates the later part of James 5:16, “When a good person prays hard, great things happen.” Lord, help us to have a faith that is convinced that great things can happen when we seek You out in prayer.