So that’s how it’s done! We marvel at the performance of great athletes: Andre Agassi’s agile footwork on the tennis court, Tiger Woods’ powerful drives from the tee, Mia Hamm’s stamina up and down the soccer field. They show us how the game should be played.
So that’s how it’s done! Elijah prayed, and through the enduring voice of Scripture we see that Elijah embodies so many of the lessons we’ve learned this month. The prayer of Elijah in our reading today couldn’t sound more different than the prayer of the pagan priests of Baal.
Elijah found his confidence for prayer in the God to whom he prayed. There was no need for dramatic displays or rhetorical flourish, such as the priests of Baal used. Instead, there is a quiet, sure address to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. There is concern exclusively for the glory of this God and for His rule tobe established on earth. “Let it be known today that you are God in Israel” (v. 36). Elijah’s entire request is summed up in one phrase: “Answer me” (v. 37).
Our key verse from James tells us that this kind of prayer, the kind of prayer that the Lord Himself taught us to pray—the kind that Elijah prayed—works. It affects the world. It makes a difference. Something mysterious takes place as we pray. God is no less sovereign in the universe, and yet He allows Himself to be moved by the prayers of His people. He acts in response to a request made of Him.
The lessons of prayer are all about God. We pray to a God who hears. He listens and answers according to His goodness and power. Prayer offers us no illusions about ourselves. We depend upon God for all that we are and all that we hope to do.