Announcements are important. Is a relationship official before it has been announced as a Facebook status? These announcements help us to know who is in a relationship and this will save you lots of confusion if you have teenage friends. Or have you ever waited for a train and an announcement comes over the speakers that it is now arriving on another platform. You hear, and then you respond to the announcement by moving platform.
You cannot get through life without hearing and responding to announcements.
Asking is important, have you ever been lost and had to ask for directions? For any men reading this you may not be able to identify with that so how about this, have you ever been in a shop and bought something (no that doesn’t work either). Okay try this one, have you ever been watching football and you have had to ask someone to be quiet so you can hear the commentary?
You cannot get through life without asking for things.
Elijah went to King Ahab with an announcement from God (a prophecy) that it wouldn’t rain (1 Kings 17.1).
Elijah asked God to stop the rain and none fell for three and a half years! (James 5.17).
So what caused the rain to stop? Was it the announcement from God or the fact that Elijah asked in prayer? If you read the historical account you see that it is God’s command that makes it happen but James’ account shows us that there was also prayer involved. This part of the Bible helps us to see that there is a mysterious relationship between what God announces and does and what we ask God to do through prayer. I don’t think we have the power to stop the rain (this would be really handy living in the UK), so this miracle (and I believe every miracle) has to start with God.
God showed Elijah that he was going to stop the rain and Elijah aligned himself with God’s will by praying it would happen. In his thoughts on Elijah in ch5, James mentions powerful prayer and I think this is a good definition: Powerful prayer is when we hear God and then we pray for God’s will to happen until it becomes reality.
The problem with this is that we may know Christians who constantly tell you what God is saying but when this just turns out to be their wacky imagination it is discouraging. This sort of thing may have put you off using the phrase God is saying … (or thus saith the Lord … if you are old school) and I think that this is actually a good thing. If someone hears God speak, I encourage them to say ‘I believe that God is saying …‘, this allows us to speak in faith but also to acknowledge our fallibility.
It’s a bit like the time I prayed for Emma. She was telling me how much her back hurt and I just knew in that moment that if I prayed for her she would be healed. I didn’t say God is going to heal you now, what would that have gained? I asked if I could pray for her and she gratefully said yes. I simply said ‘may God heal you’ and she began to move freely, God had done it!! I believed that God had said he would and so I asked in faith and God acted in power. James says as part of his commentary on Elijah, ‘Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick’ (James 5.15). It is this hearing God and praying for his will to be done that provides miraculous answers. Prayer is not telling God what to do, prayer should be finding what God wants and praying for it to happen.
What is God saying? Why not listen to him now. If as you listen to him a thought comes to you that is encouraging and good and if it is in line with the Bible then pray that it would become a reality.
Listening to God and praying is a powerful combination because we stop asking for what we want and we start asking for what God wants, that his will would be done on Earth as it is in heaven. God is already at work and when we listen, pray and act it means that we can join him in what he is doing.
Do you understand this picture? If you watch American football then it is probably straight forward. If you don’t understand the picture it doesn’t matter because the players do. They have heard their head coach announce what the play is, they have asked any questions about their part and they know that if they each follow the plan then the will of the coach will become a reality. The only thing that can stop them is a superior opposing team and we don’t have to worry about that because nothing is as powerful as God. A player can lose concentration or just wander off and do something else and the whole thing will fall apart. Trusting in the head coach and following his instructions will lead to success.
May we become more like Elijah as we listen to God and then pray for what God wants to happen until it becomes a reality.
If you would like to, you can read part 2 of this series on Elijah: When God does something weird