Hearing From God
1 Kings 18:41-46
If we were asked to choose an example for our prayer life, it's not likely that we would select Elijah.
Elijah was a mighty prophet of God, and I am not.
Elijah was a mighty worker of miracles, and I certainly am not.
So, somehow we put Elijah in a place to where he is in another league.
But that is not how the New Testament remember him.
James 5:17-18 is an illuminating passage of Scripture, and one of which we can learn a lot about prayer.
Let's remember two things about James.
The epistle of James has more to say about the doctrine of prayer than any other New Testament epistle.
The book of James is bathed with the action of prayer.
James was nicknamed "Camel knees" by the early church.
He was called this because his knees were so callous from his incessant praying.
And as we read James, it is obvious that James was greatly influenced by the prayers of Elijah.
James 5:17 states that "Elijah was a man just like us.
He prayed earnestly
It is interesting to note that the Word of God does not say, "Elijah was a mighty prophet of God,
and he prayed.
It does not say "Elijah was a mighty worker of miracles, and he prayed."
It says, "Elijah was a man just like us."
He had problems.
He had perplexities.
He had fears.
He had doubts.
He had frustrations.
But he prayed that's what made him different.
That's why James selects him as an example of prayer.
We can be like Elijah and James in our prayer life.
Now let's go back to 1 Kings 18, and see Elijah communicating with God.
This is not the first time, we read of his prayer life.
Elijah had prayed that it might not rain.
Prayer preceded his encounter with King Ahab.
On Mount Caramel, it was prayer that brought down the descending fire.
Now we remember the descending nonstop rain upon the earth.
God had promised that it would rain: "After a long time, in the third year,
the word of the Lord came to Elijah:
'Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.'" (18:1)
If God promised to send rain, why pray?
Prayer is the hand that translates promise into performance.
God not only ordains the end, He also ordains the means.
It is not a question of coming to a reluctant God in an attempt to persuade Him to do
what He really does not want to do.
It is a matter of coming to God with a consciousness that we are dependent individuals.
Prayer is the realization that our need is not partial it is total.
Here is an interesting little couplet that I have read:
"When I try, I fail.
When I trust, He succeeds."
There is a world of theology in that little couplet.
The Christian life is not a matter of trying it is a matter of trusting.
It is the recognition that the believing life is not difficult it is impossible,
apart from a supernatural commission.
There are three characteristics of Elijah's prayer life of which we should pray
that the Spirit of God will weave into the threads of our lives.
First, The Earnestness of His Prayer
"And Elijah said to Ahab, 'Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.'" (Verse 41)
We will see in a subsequent verse that there were no clouds in the sky.
How can you hear the sound of a heavy rain when there is not a cloud in the sky?
That's the ear of faith.
The ears of faith hears when you cannot see.
Then in verse 42 we read, "So Ahab went off to eat and drink [note the contrast],
but Elijah climbed up to the top of Mount Carmel, bent down to the ground
and put his face between his knees."
The text mentions the posture, I believe, not because this is to be the pattern,
but because the posture is the outward evidence of inward earnestness.
Remember that our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane prostrated himself on the ground when he cried,
"If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)
His position was a reflection of the attitude of His heart.
James says "He prayed earnestly."
This can be quite literally translated, "He prayed in His prayer."
That is a good habit.
Very few of us do that.
Isn't it refreshing to listen to a new convert pray?
Such as a prayer from Jim to God: "Lord, this is Jim.
I met you last Thursday night.
Forgive me, Lord, because I cannot say it the way the rest of these people do,
but I want to tell you the best I know how I love you, Lord. Amen."
And Jim ignited the prayer meeting.
Everybody else was praying with all the clichés in the jargon that we have learned,
and after a while he might be praying like everyone else.
But he prayed.
God delights to react to the earnestness of the believing heart.
Now the second characteristic of Elijah's prayer life is the expectation of his prayer.
If you underline three statements in three verses, you will see the story of an answer to prayer.
1. In verse 43, underline the statement, "There is nothing there."
2. In verse 44 we read, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising."
3. In verse 45 we read, "A heavy rain came on."
First there was nothing, and then a small cloud, and then a heavy rain.
And what was the key?
Elijah prayed expectantly.
"Go and look towards the sea," he told his servant.
And he went and looked, and he said "there is nothing there."
Seven times Elijah said, "Go back"
The seventh time the servant reported that "a cloud as small as a man's hand is rising in the sea."
So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.".
(Verses 43 through 44)
Most of us would have thrown in the towel a long time before this.
Suppose Elijah would have stopped on the sixth time?
But in expectant faith, he sends the servant out to scan the skies because he is looking for something.
If we expect nothing, we will seldom be disappointed.
Professor Howard Hendricks told about a father who felt God was calling him
into vocational Christian work.
So he sold his business at a loss, and entered the work to which the Lord had called him.
And things got rough, financially.
One night during the family devotions, Timmy, the youngest of four boys asked,
"Daddy, do you think Jesus would mind if I asked him for a shirt?"
His dad answered quickly, "Of course not."
So they wrote in their little prayer request book, "Shirt for Timmy."
And the mother added, "Size 7."
And every night for weeks, they prayed for the shirt.
After some weeks, the mother received a phone call from a Christian businessman
who owned a clothing business in downtown Dallas.
He said, "I have just completed our July clearance sale.
Knowing that you have four boys it occurred to me that I have something you might use.
"Could you use some boys shirts?"
She said, "What size?"
He answered, "Size 7."
She asked, "How many do you have?"
He answered, "I have 12 of them."
That night, as expected Timmy asked, "Don't forget, Mommy, let's pray for the shirt."
Another answered, "We don't have to pray for the shirt, Timmy,
for the Lord has already answered your prayer."
Timmy was so excited as he responded, "He did!"
The family planned a special way to show him the shirts.
Timmy's brother goes out, gets the shirt, brings it in, and puts it on the table."
Timmy's eyes are like saucers.
Timmy goes out, gets another shirt and brings it in.
Out and back out and back until he has piled 12 shirts on the table in front of Timmy.
And Timmy thinks that God has gone into the shirt business.
There is a boy named, Timmy, who still believes that there is a God in heaven
who is interested enough in a little boys needs to provide a shirt a dozen of them.
Do we know that?
Does our children know that?
Sometimes our expectancy is demonstrated by waiting.
Some things on our prayer list were there for a long time before they were answered.
On a Sunday night at the conclusion of a revival meeting in my first pastorate,
one man gave his heart and life to Jesus.
He lived next door to the church, and many of us had visited him many times.
Of course when he came down the aisle the church rejoiced.
One little, quiet, elderly lady came out into the aisle walking up and down shouting praises
to God for this man's salvation.
When she finally stopped, she said, "I prayed for this man for 24 years,
and now God has answered my prayers."
Maybe you have been praying for many years for salvation of the loved one.
I would encourage you to keep praying.
Jesus said: "Keep on asking, and you will receive.
Keep on seeking, and you will find.
Keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you."
But we must ask and seek and knock with expectancy.
The third characteristic of Elijah's prayer life is the effect of his prayer.
In verse 45 we read, "Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on
There is a twofold effect described in this passage.
First, there is the effect of his prayer upon the land.
This was no light drizzle.
This was a heavy rain that broke a prolonged dry spell.
And we are living in spiritually, dry conditions.
We are surrounded by barren desert.
And God is still looking for men, women, and young people who with God's power will bring
the refreshing rain, and break the spiritual drought.
Second, we also read, in verse 46, that there was a great effect upon this man.
"The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt,
he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreal."
Elijah himself emerges from the experience with a new dynamic.
The power of God was upon him.
No greater testimony than this that is the secret.
The power of God was on him because he knew how to lay hold of the throne of God in prayer.
There is a great principle here that we must remember.
Great praying brings great blessing.
Elijah's prayer was great, not because of its language, and not because of its length,
and certainly not because of its loudness.
It was great because it was earnest it was expectant and it was trusting on the power of the living God.
There is nothing more wonderful than after you pray, you experience the power of God
upon your life
"What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there."
-- Joseph M. Scriven,
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White.