Hello Summit family!
Allow me to thank Lee, Clay, Angela and Jerilyn for providing devotions the past couple of weeks. We have such an incredible staff and I know their devotions were as encouraging and challenging to you as they were to me. I looked forward every day to the wisdom God led them to share with each of us. Thank you staff for being so faithful in serving!
We are nearing the end of James’ letter. Chapter five has reminded us of the power of prayer. He reminded his readers that whatever they face in life should be faced with have attitude of prayer and worship. He segued from individual prayer to the prayer of elders, which when offered in faith yields great power, the power to heal!
His third encouragement regarding prayer reminded us that we should pray for each other, enjoying the prayers of our friends and brothers and sisters. Praying for each other is critical for many reasons. James highlights a primary benefit, once again healing. We know that every relationship will experience tests of endurance. There are no perfect people. Praying for each other provides a relationship foundation so that when the need arises for one to ask and/or grant forgiveness it will result in reconciliation.
James then draws his reader’s attention to the power that comes when those who are righteous pray. His example, Elijah. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and one-half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
The story of Elijah is found in 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 2. Throughout these scripture passages, Elijah is recorded to have been a man of faithful prayer. As a prophet, he delivered the word of the Lord which confirmed the direct line of communication he had with God. A study of the following verses provides clear documentation of Elijah’s direct communication with God.
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.’ So he did what the Lord told him.” (1 Kings 17:2-5a)
“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.’ So he went to Zarephath.” (1 Kings 7-10a)
When the widow’s son died, Elijah prayed to the Lord. “Then he cried to the Lord, ‘Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’ Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him.’” (1 Kings 20-21) And that is exactly what happened!
“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.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.” (1 Kings 18:1-2)
“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’” (1 Kings 18:36-37)
And verses 10 through 17 include a narrative between God and Elijah. He has just experienced a great victory over the prophets of Baal. In retaliation, Jezebel threatened to take his life. Elijah again prays to God: “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” (1 Kings 19:10)
I think James included the example of Elijah for several reasons. His readers would have been very familiar with the victories Elijah enjoyed as a prophet of God. They would have held the Old Testament prophets in high esteem. The example of Elijah demonstrated two things: what comprised a righteous man and the effectiveness of a righteous man’s prayers.
These passages show that:
Elijah was consistently obedient to God’s instructions. He went to the Kerith Ravine, to the widow at Zarephath, to Ahab and followed God’s instructions to go to Mount Horeb.
Elijah was a human being, just as we are and experienced the same emotions we experienced. After his incredible victory at Mount Carmel, he was significantly impacted by Jezebel’s threat to the point of asking God to let him die. One would imagine after having enjoyed such victory Elijah would have also known that God would protect him from Jezebel.
As a faithful, righteous man, his prayers were miraculously effective. The widows son’s life returned. It stopped raining for three and one-half years. Fire fell from heaven for the entire nation of Israel to see. And after praying to God to take his life he actually did NOT die as recorded in 2 Kings 2:11.
“As they were walking along and talking together (with Elisha), suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind”
One can see how James is connecting his primary themes as he concludes his letter. The goal is to have a mature, complete faith, one that comes from realizing God’s faithfulness through every trial and tribulation life may present. As we mature in our faith, it will have a direct impact on our obedience to God. We will begin acquiring a heavenly wisdom that will guide us as we function within the body of Christ. We will avoid being impartial and showing favoritism. We will learn to control our tongues. We will endure with patience the various seasons of life. We will implant the Word of God in our hearts, not only being hearers of the Word, but doers as well. And we will become people of prayer.
I am challenged to step back, removing myself emotionally from the day to day routine as I consider how I can take the truth of this powerful letter and apply it in my personal life as I continue my growth journey to maturity. I believe the encouragement James has provided is just as applicable to Christians today as it was thousands of years ago when delivered to the original recipients.
I am ready to be a perfect in my faith TODAY! Somehow I don’t think it will happen that quickly! Tomorrow we’ll look at the final ingredient required for achieving a perfect faith – demonstrating patience after praying!