Such a powerful, yet underutilized, weapon that is in the arsenal of Christians.
We try to fix it ourselves.
We ask for advice from people who cannot give sound advice.
But prayer…it is sometimes a last resort.
My prayer life is not where I want it to be and it is not something I want to speak on often since I don’t consider myself a prayer warrior like others I know.
Which is why I was shocked and fretful over the fact that I had to speak at a women’s conference on the topic of prayer.
God’s got jokes!
I really wanted to speak on the topic of Faith and works; but my name wasn’t drawn for that. It was drawn for…prayer!
I couldn’t wiggle my way out of this one. I had to stick it out, study, and keep my heart and mind open for what God wanted to teach me.
There are about 500 verses on prayer and what everyone had to focus on was the book of James.
So, I started with James 5:16-18.
Looking in the English Standard Version (ESV), James 5:16-18 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”
Because the prophet Elijah was mentioned, I went to his story in 1 Kings to see why he was used as an example for fervent and effective prayers.
1 Kings 18:1 ESV
“After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.””
Then I skipped to verses 41-46
“And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'” And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
These verses give us a formula for praying. They tell us how to SHAPE our prayers.
Before I give you the lesson I received, allow me to share a story.
On October 29, 2000, I was teaching a Sunday School lesson on David and Goliath to some teenage students. Later, during the morning service, my pastor at that time, also preached a message on David and Goliath.
Normally, when I hear a message twice, I take it as a sign or confirmation that God is speaking to me and something will come to pass; but I was not as mature as I am now, so it went completely over my head.
God said, “let me tell her again.” So later that night, I was watching Touched by an Angel and there was a scene about David and Goliath!
I still didn’t catch the hint!
Fast forward two days. I was rushed to the hospital because my water broke; I was only six months pregnant.
When I got to the hospital, I was given shots to accelerate the development of my son’s lungs. I was getting IVs. I was given powerful medicine to relax my entire body so that the contractions would stop. I was getting ultrasounds. I was giving blood. Tests were ran. My baby’s heart rate was being constantly checked. Nurses were in and out.
They told me to get comfortable because I would be in the hospital until my son was born and on complete bed rest. Doctors told me about premature birth and what life could be like. They told me my son had a 70% chance of living. He could have problems and on and on and on.
I was scared! But I had praying people in my room and they told me not to worry about what the doctors said, because they knew God and He had the final say. They started praying!
My prayer was that Joshua would stay in me until he was full term! That meant me being in the hospital for 3 more months! That was my prayer and I was sticking to it!
Well God started speaking again.
News got out that I was in the hospital with the possibility of giving birth premtaturely. I had visitors come see me and a couple of the visitors told me about them having premature children. I was shocked. They looked perfectly fine. What a miracle!
Before my water broke, I was talking with a friend and she was telling me about how she was born prematurely. I thought it was a great, miraculous story. It was out of the blue, but definitely a great and inspiring story of the power of God!
Silly me, I didn’t catch the hint…again.
On Nov 7, my son Joshua was born weighing only 1 lb, 13 oz.
My prayers changed…quickly… to God save my baby.
One day while feeling guilty and sad that my baby had to stay in the hospital while I was released, God brought some things to my memory along with clarity!
David and Goliath were mentioned to me three times in one day! What was God trying to tell me that I didn’t catch before?
I was getting ready to face a Goliath-sized problem, but there was no need to worry. God was going to fight this battle! And fight it he did.
But I had to pray!
My prayers had to align with God’s will.
It wasn’t easy; in fact it was very difficult. But I had to rest in his promise and expect it would come to pass!
While my son was growing and developing physically, I was growing and developing spiritually!
I was praying specifically and expectantly, crying, singing, and praising God often.
God said he was going to fight this battle, so I prayed IN ACCORDANCE WITH WHAT HE TOLD ME!
My fellow followers of Christ, God Speaks. He tells us His will and what he wants us to do! Are you listening so that you can hear him?
When you hear it, do you obey?
When you pray, are you praying his will?
Do you expect to receive what God promised?
GDo you act accordingly?
If you do, high five. If not, no need to fret. I stopped by to give you five steps to SHAPE YOUR PRAYERS!
From James, we learn what it means to have fervent, effectual prayers since he gave us Elijah as an example!
If you were to go to 1 Kings beginning in chapter 17, you would see the ministry of Elijah begin and unfold. He tells the king of Israel there will be no rain in the land except at the word of God! Then he leaves and is unable to be found for over 3 years. During these three years he encounters God in ways that grows him and matures him. At the end of those three years, God tells Elijah to face the king once again because he is going to send the rain. An epic battle occurs proving that God is the one true God, Israel repents and returns to God, so God sends rain that Elijah must pray for. This is where we pick up the story.
Elijah does five things in order to pray for the rain.
1. Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel.
Friends, we must go to a higher place of SOLITUDE. When we get to a private place, we reduce distractions that keep us from being focused and attentive to the voice of God.
2. Elijah bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.
We must HUMBLE ourselves. Humbling ourselves causes us to truly worship God. We’re trusting Him with what’s going on in our lives and believing He is the provider instead of ourselves. It takes the responsibility off us and puts it where it belongs. It was God that was going to bring the rain; not Elijah. He was the tool that God used to pray for the rain! Humbling yourself helps you keep your focus where it belongs.
3. Elijah told his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And [the servant] went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.”
We must ASK specifically for what we want. In this instance, God promised rain, so Elijah prayed for rain. God told me he would fight the battle of Joshua’s premature birth, so I prayed that everything Joshua went through, he would conquer and overcome it. But as some of you may know, God does not operate on our time table. So we have to keep praying for that thing to come to pass!
4. And [Elijah] said, “Go again,” seven times. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”
We must be PERSISTENT. That thing you are praying for-healing, restoration, forgiveness, financial breakthrough, job-may not happen when you pray the first time. God is working some things out and it will require a persistent asking to keep your faith engaged and to keep you focused, talking to God, asking specifically for the thing He promised you.
5. And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.'”
We must be EXPECTANT! When we are praying according to the promises of God for our life, we must believe God. His promises are yes and amen and He does not lie! If God told you it will be, it shall be. If God told you it won’t be, it shall not be!
I don’t know what you need from God, but his promises are yes and amen. We just have to ask! Let’s be like Elijah!
Elijah showed us how to SHAPE our prayers!
So my friends, join me! Let’s begin shaping our prayers. I encourage you read the story of Elijah in its entirety so you can see how we was molded into a man of prayer with total reliance on God’s promises.
While I didn’t feel worthy to speak on the topic, I definitely learned something new for me to apply in my own prayer life. I pray you did also!
Spicing up your soul…