Imagine the rapturous joy of sailors who sight land or a lighthouse after spending several days and nights on board a tempest-tossed ship. The joy of a Christian who sees the first evidence of answered prayer after several months or years of patient waiting on the Lord is similar if not greater than any such joy.
God commanded the prophet Elijah to present himself before his arch-rival, King Ahab of Israel. Elijah had cursed the land of Israel with a severe drought; it had not rained in Israel for three-and-half years since then. How could the ‘absconding’ prophet appear before an enraged King? God gave Elijah a promise: “Go … I will send rain.” Trusting in the Lord, he went to the King, and later, won a decisive battle for God on Mt. Carmel. The true God manifested himself before an apostate nation by sending fire from heaven. Yet, the drought was still on. Even when there was no sign of rain, Elijah exercised his faith in God’s promise by confessing to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.“
When Ahab departed to enjoy a late lunch, God’s man Elijah went up to the top of Carmel. He did not wish to leave anything to chance. There was no room for complacency. Elijah knew that everything that God did with respect to His people was in answer to prayer. Even a divine promise might remain unfulfilled if God’s people don’t humble themselves and plead for it’s fulfillment!
Elijah’s faith in God is illustrated by his persistent prayer. After praying for rain, he sent his servant to see whether there was any sign of rain in the sky. Elijah expected God to answer his prayer. When his servant returned saying, “There’s nothing,” Elijah decided to pray again before sending his servant to look for clouds. He did this seven times! This is an amazing demonstration of the twin dimensions of faith in God—assurance and patience. His assurance in God’s faithfulness made him look out for an answer after each of his seven prayers. He wasn’t praying for the sake of praying. He expected an answer. On the other hand, patience made Elijah persist in prayer until he saw an answer from God! Elijah’s humility too is noteworthy, as is evident from his posture in prayer. He bowed down and his face was between his knees. He didn’t command God to act. He didn’t command the sky to give rain. He just petitioned God on behalf of his nation.
After his seventh prayer, Elijah’s servant came back with a positive answer. “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” Elijah wasn’t disturbed by the size of the cloud as much as his servant was. A cloud, however small it appeared, was a miracle that God wrought in that cloudless sky. Elijah rose up to leave. He was emboldened to warn Ahab of a mighty downpour. Just as Elijah confessed, the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was heavy rain.
Men and women of faith pray. They pray, expecting an answer from God, in all humility. They persist in prayer until God answers. And, of course, they know when to rise from prayer to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
Do you have a similar experience to share with God’s people for the glory of God?