When’s the last time you recall a conversation where a question was asked and the person replied, “Wow! That’s a good question”? I’ve been on both sides of that, and mostly likely you have also. Those are life-giving conversations.
Elijah had one of those conversations with God in 1 Kings 19. In this case, Elijah got asked this question, not once but twice: “What are you doing here?” Similar to God questioning Adam and Eve in the Garden and to Jesus asking Peter the same question three times, this conversation was a learning moment, one that gave direction to a wandering child of God.
Is there shame in wandering? I’m guessing if there were God wouldn’t bother showing up to ask us a question. He doesn’t show up because he’s lost or doesn’t know the answer. He’s showing up for our benefit. The answer to his question is for our learning, our misdirection, and our relationship with him.
Are you wandering? Are you lacking direction? Elijah had walked 40 days and nights and entered a cave where this conversation happened. What if you gave God that much attention or space so that you could have a life-giving conversation? What would it take to put yourself in position to hear when God asks you a question?
Overtime. Not a fan. Particularly in college football. Anytime I’m watching a game that seems destined for overtime I’m tempted to zone out.
In my Bible reading plan this morning this subject was presented through the story of Elijah. 1 Kings 18 records the awesome display by God on Mt. Carmel. After something like that, you’d think game over, right? Nope. Immediately Elijah goes into overtime with Queen Jezebel. She’s out for blood.
Ever had that feeling? You’ve given all you had, thought it was enough, but quickly realized there’s more to come, to finish the journey. And maybe like Elijah, you thought, “Seriously. Not sure I got anything left. I want out.”
“Overtime” comes when you least expect it. Perhaps your marriage goes through a big crisis and you’re reconciled but, all of a sudden, one argument seems to threaten it all. Or, maybe you’re a business owner and you landed the big contract when, all of a sudden, a competitor surfaces with a competing bid. Or, maybe the chemo treatments are over, but there is a new scan that raises questions and new treatment is recommended. Overtime. (excerpt from Everyday Miracles @Youversion reading plan)
In Elijah’s case, God sent an angel to minister to him. He didn’t sugarcoat the situation. He simply met Elijah where he was, prepared him to stay in rather than get out.
That’s who God is-the God of staying in. He has what you need in overtime. He’s been in overtime ever since the Garden of Eden. Surely He can help you in yours.
How might your overtime praying go? To give you a jumpstart, here’s the prayer at the end of the reading plan devotional:
Lord, when the spirit of Jezebel attacks, I know you are near. There is no discouragement that can overtake me when I know you are with me. When the unexpected “overtime” moments of life catch me by surprise, give me the grace to continue in the full armor of God. Though discouragement may crouch at the door, show me the great journey that you have set before me. Lift up my head and give my eyes a new vision for this new day. Thank you for the victory that has been secured in Jesus. It is in his name I pray, amen.
(Final day in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)
Several months ago during the prayer time after a Sunday morning sermon, a lady came forward and asked prayer for a job decision she needed to make. I can’t explain why, but I felt led to voice a prayer on her behalf that God make it clear to her within 48 hours what decision she should make.
A few weeks later she shared this with me: “I was taken back when you prayed so specifically that God would answer your prayer in 48 hours. But I have to tell you, that’s exactly what He did. Because of your prayer and the timing in which I had peace about a decision, I knew God had given me His answer. Thank you.”
Does that example mean I always get what I pray for? Nope. What it means is that we shouldn’t be afraid to pray specifically in order for God to give us direction. James wrote about this in the first chapter of his epistle.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God – who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly – and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (CSB)
In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he paraphrases verse 6, “Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.” Many biblical characters voiced specifically bold prayers:
- Hannah prayed boldly for a son (1 Samuel 1)
- Elijah prayed boldly for rain (1 Kings 18)
- David prayed boldly for forgiveness (Psalm 51)
- Jesus prayed boldly for resurrecting power (John 11)
All of these prayers lacked doubt. All of them were specifically bold. All of them were answered. All of them brought God glory.
What specifically bold prayer could you pray today that would bring God glory?
(Day 26 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)
“The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.” – James 5:15-18
One of the most incredible things about the gospel is that we are encouraged, throughout the New Testament, to pray always and in all circumstances. God did not give us access to Himself begrudgingly, hoping that we would never actually pray. He wants us to come to Him with everything-good, bad or indifferent-so that we can continue to build a relationship with Him, and so that He can continue to shape us into the people that He wants us to be.
In this passage, James reminds us to pray boldly for big, even miraculous things. Remembering to also be submissive in prayer, we must keep in mind that God’s highest goals are our sanctification and His glorification. Sometimes that means He will answer our prayers in very unexpected ways. But that should not stop us from praying with boldness. Rather, it should spur us on to pray with more perseverance and fervor, so that we may see God work in better ways than we can imagine in our limited view.
This is where James’ example of Elijah’s story becomes so helpful. In 1 Kings 17-18 Elijah prays for the drought that James describes, and the Lord brings it upon Israel, stopping the rain for three and a half years. Throughout that time, all of Israel suffers greatly from the resulting famine, but the Lord provides for Elijah in miraculous ways. And through the drought, the Lord turns the hearts of the people back to Himself, so that they worship Him once again. It is an amazing story of our great God and a righteous man who knew how to pray well. I encourage you to read it and dwell on how Elijah’s example can encourage you to pray with boldness.
By Kyle Reilly