Do You Pray Like Elijah?
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.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 5:13–18 ESV)
Prayer, to many of us, is a mystery.
We do it, but we’re not sure why.
We spend a lot of time and theological effort explaining why we should pray and then more explaining why we don’t see many results from that praying.
I find much of that to be disingenuous…because of passages like the one above.
Not only does it promise physical and spiritual healing through prayer, it states that every one of us has power like the prophet Elijah.
How do you interpret passages like this?
Do they encourage or discourage you?
Do you pray?
If you pray what are your expectations for prayer?
If Jesus has attached a promise to my prayer, I pray joyfully and expect Jesus to keep his promise in his way.
I refuse to call Jesus a liar.
However, most of my prayers are not in a manner that Jesus has promised to fulfill them. Most of my prayer life is more in line with God taking out people I don’t like. Although I continue those prayers I have absolutely no expectation of fulfillment.
Are there alternative explanations besides “Jesus is a liar”?
Yes, perhaps James does not belong in the NT LOL 🙂
Seems like someone has been praying like Elijah here on the West Coast, because the rain (and snow) just keeps coming. 🙂
They say the Sierra Nevadas will hit a new record in snow amount for a February. Glad that this latest storm is supposed to only give us a glancing blow here in SoCal.
But on to the questions you asked:
1. How do you interpret passages like this? I try to respect the passage. If it doesn’t fit my reality then I go back at it. Either I haven’t fully understood the scriptures (often the case) or my reality is skewed by sin.
2. Do they encourage or discourage you? I’m encouraged, because my Lord is not distant. He is loves me. You could even say He dotes over me, although I don’t think I’m worth doting over. He’s willing to forgive my sins, to heal, to raise me up. It might not happen on my timetable, but His promises are sure. Some things linger on us here in this fallen world, like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, but all will eventually be redeemed and remade.
I find great comfort in Revelations 21 where it talks of the New Heaven and New Earth. It is an intimate scene of Him wiping away every tear and freeing us of all pain and suffering.
3. Do you pray? Yes, many times each day. If I don’t I’d blow it much worse than I usually do. Do I pray enough? Nope. I still have a tendency of wanting to do this on my own. “Stand aside God; I got this.” Yeah, that is usually followed by me falling flat on my face.
4. If you pray what are your expectations for prayer? He will listen and He will respond. His responses are not automated replies: I did A and B so God will do C. To me that would be a shallow relationship, even though sometimes that is what I want. Also, my prayers are varied, with prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, repentance, intercession, as well as petition.
He often seems to answer a question I didn’t ask instead of the one I did, helping me to get my focus corrected. Decades ago, when I asked God if I should date a particular young woman, I wanted a “yes” or “no”. I made it simple for God. He only had to give me a one-word answer. But the reply I got was “trust Me”. That was very frustrating at the time, but it was a reply that helped my through the many, many years of singleness that followed. I had to learn to trust Him through the years of singleness and now also in marriage.
Well, I hope my ramblings make some sense. God bless you, brother Michael. Know that you and what you do here has been the answer to many prayers over the years. Know that and be encouraged.
The epistle of James is practical and instructive, even ‘works-focused’. These verses give us directions. Are you suffering? Pray. Are you happy? Praise. Are you sick? Call for the elders and ask them to pray, even annointing you with oil…. potentially a quasi-medical ‘treatment’ or a referral back to priestly annointing for the purpose of approaching God. “The effectual fervent prayer of a RIGHTEOUS MAN avails much.” So what is righteous? Who is righteous? We of course, if we are IN Christ, then we are benefactors of HIS Righteousness. …
The real question is What does ‘avail much’ or accomplish much mean? IMO there in lies the reason we struggle with praying, that is, our expectations. We know the scriptures say that He can do all things and no plan of His can be thwarted… We know He said “ask, that your joy may be full” and many, many more verses throughout both Old and New Testaments. These verses give us hope that our requests will be granted. We’ve all heard a zillion sermons about a 5 year old wanting to drive, etc. and how many of our request are answered with “not yet”.. and ‘we don’t see the larger picture”… While trite and simplistic, those answers work.
Elijah saw many miracles. He also saw a lot of sorrow and hideous injustice, wicked leaders, etc. A great miracle now and then sure does encourage us though.
The Model Prayer pretty much only includes daily bread in terms of practical requests.. and Jesus said “having food and clothing, be content”..
The older I get, the more I utterly put all my hope in the Lord… and the admonition to ‘pray without ceasing’ becomes the on going awareness and conversation with God through day and night. “My heart will not fear, tho war break out against me,” ‘casting my cares” on Him. Trite, but real.
I love the verse in Daniel when Shadrack and friends state, ‘Yes our God is able to deliver us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not bow”… and Job’s, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”…. Life is so brutal that as the years go by, these verses seem to mean more and feel more real.
The View of Scripture from the place of suffering is profoundly different than the view from a place of ease.Apparently, God seems to think that suffering is needed.
The question we might ask is”how did Elijah pray and what was so special about it?” We are introduced to this man who basically shows up out of the blue and says this:
Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, [U]“As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”[/U]
What kind of prayer was that?
It’s a great story and far more than a simple prayer. Why did God honor his words and stop the rain and why did God start the rain three plus years later?
Great story about God and His mercy on humans.
Sorry about my absence…not feeling well.
Paige has come close to parsing these as I do…but it is not a parsing that satisfies me…at all.
One part of this prayer “promises” healing, the other part strains itself to tell us that the common believer can have the power of Elijah in prayer.
We just don’t see it.
These verses have changed the way I read the Bible as a whole…in fact they demand that you read the text as one narrative lest you shipwreck on the rocks of proof texting.
On a Friday, I had a positive diagnosis which required major surgery, within days. With this text from James, on Saturday I asked the elders at church to pray for me so I would come through the surgery and be OK. On Sunday, they prayed and annointed me with oil between church worship services. No pastors, though, just lay elders. The first one prayed that the surgeon would find nothing, despite the positive biopsy. I was surprised at the bold prayer. On Tuesday, in surgery, the surgeon found nothing, exactly as the elder had prayed. The hospital visit duty pastor called me post surgery to see how I was doing and what they found. “Like the elder’s prayer, they found nothing, despite the positve biopsy,” I told the pastor over the phone. He hung up on me, click. That was the end of it, at the church. No one wanted to talk about the miracle. But I thanked God, and still thank God.