“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are.”- JAS. v. 16, 17.
THERE is nothing that so much weakens the force of the call to imitate the example of Scripture saints, as the thought that theirs are exceptional cases, and that what we see in them is not to be expected of all. The aim of God in Scripture is the very opposite. He gives us these men for our instruction and encouragement, as a specimen of what His grace can do, as living embodiments of what His will and our nature at once demand and render possible.
It was just to meet the so common error alluded to, and to give confidence to all of us who aim at a life of effectual prayer, that James wrote: “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are.” As there was no difference between his nature and ours, or between the grace that wrought in him and works in us, there is no reason why we should not, like him, pray effectually. If our Prayer is to have power, we must seek to have somewhat of Elijah’s spirit. The aspiration, Let me seek grace to pray like Elijah, is perfectly legitimate, is most needful. If we honestly seek for the secret of his power in prayer the path in which he trod will open to us. We shall find it in his life with God, his work for God, his trust in God.
Prayer is the voice of our life. As a man lives so he prays. Not the words or thoughts with which he is occupied at set times of prayer, but the bent of his heart as seen in his desires and actions, is regarded by God as his real prayer. The life speaks louder and truer than the lips. To pray well I must live well. He who seeks to live with God, will learn so to know His mind and to please Him, that he will be able to pray according to His will. Think how Elijah, at his first message to Ahab, spoke of “the Lord God, before whom I stand.” Think of his solitude at the brook Cherith, receiving his bread from God through the ravens, and then at Sarepta through the ministry of a poor widow. He walked with God, he learned to know God well; when the time came, he knew to pray to a God whom he had proved. It is only out of a life of true fellowship with God that the prayer of faith can be born. Let the link between the life and the prayer be clear and close. As we give ourselves to walk with God, we shall learn to pray.
He went where God sent him. He did what God commanded him. He stood up for God and His service. He witnessed against the people and their sin. All who heard him could say: “Now I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” His prayers were all in connection with his work for God. He was equally a man of action and a man of prayer. When he prayed down, first the drought and then the rain, it was, as part of his prophetic work, that the people, by judgment and mercy, might be brought back to God. When he prayed down fire from heaven on the sacrifice, it was that God might be known as the true God. All he asked was for the glory of God. How often believers seek power in prayer, that they may be able to get good gifts for themselves. The secret selfishness robs them of the power and the answer. It is when self is lost in the desire for God’s glory, and our life is devoted to work for God, that power to pray can come. God lives to love, and save, and bless men: the believer who gives himself up to God’s service in this, will find in it new life in prayer. Work for others proves the honesty of our prayer for them. Work for God reveals alike our need and our right to pray boldly. Cultivate the consciousness, and speak it out before God, that you are wholly given up to His service; it will strengthen your confidence in His hearing you.
He had learned to trust Him for His personal needs in the time of famine; he dared trust Him for greater things in answer to prayer for His people. What confidence in God’s hearing him we see in his appeal to the God that answers by fire. What confidence in God’s doing what he would ask, when he announced to Ahab the abundance of rain that was coming, and then, with his face to the earth, pleaded for it, while his servant, six times over, brought the message, “There is nothing.” An unwavering confidence in the promise and character of God, and God’s personal friendship for himself, acquired in personal intercourse, and proved in work for God, gave power for the effectual prayer of the righteous man.
The inner chamber is the place where this has to be learned. The morning watch is the training school where we are to exercise the grace that can fi?t us to pray like Elijah. Let us not fear. The God of Elijah still lives; the spirit that was in him dwells in us. Let us cease from the limited and selfish views of prayer, which only aim at grace enough to keep us standing. Let us cultivate the consciousness that Elijah had, of living wholly for God, and we shall learn to pray like him. Prayer will bring to ourselves and to others the new and blessed experience, that our prayers too are effectual and avail much.
In the power of that Redeeming Intercessor, who ever liveth to pray, let us take courage and not fear. We have given ourselves to God, we are working for Him. We are learning to know and trust Him. We can count on the life of God in us, the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, to lead us on to this grace too: the effectual prayer of the righteous man that availeth much.