Elijah's Example of Proper Prayer

The best way to learn most subjects is to study examples. In reference to prayer the Bible offers us many examples of praying people. Of the many, the Old Testament prophet, Elijah, stands as a wonderful example of a proper prayer life. Let us look into the eighteenth chapter of first Kings and learn by example.


Positiveness in Prayer.

Elijah was sure God was going to send rain in answer to his prayer. This is seen first of all in his command to Ahab to eat and drink before he left to go up the mountain to pray. He was in essence telling Ahab to celebrate the end of the three and a half year drought. Also, when his servant saw the first sign of a cloud he immediately sent word to Ahab to get down the mountain that the rain not hinder him. He had faith that God would answer. We should not doubt (cf. James 1:5-8) when we pray to God but rather trust Him for answers.

Place of Prayer.

In I Kings 18:41-46 we see Elijah praying after the victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. In this prayer we first of all see the principle of the place of prayer. Elijah leaves the Ahab and the crowd and goes only with his servant to the top of Carmel. For Elijah prayer was not performance; it was intimate fellowship with God. Just as Jesus commanded that we should go into a secret place (cf. Matt. 6:6) we should find a place to be alone with our God. There is something freeing about being in a place of prayer free of distractions.

Position of Prayer.

I Kings 18:42 states that Elijah "cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees." Bowing or bending low has always been a sign of respect and a sign of being in the presence of a superior person. This is not only the proper position of body in praying it also express the correct frame of mind. We do not come into God's presence in prayer to impress Him or to make certain demands of Him; we come to humbly ask for His aid in our weakness. As we remember our place we too will likely remember His place as the Almighty God, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Persistence in Prayer.

While he remains in prayer Elijah commands his servant to go and look to the west over the horizon of the Mediterranean sea. The first report from the servant was that he saw nothing. Rather than discouraging him Elijah continued to pray. This was repeated five more times with nothing for the servant to report but blue sky. Elijah kept on praying. This example of persistence is one for us to follow. Too often we let our prayer life be marked by intensity only in a panic rather than it being a continued conversation with God. Jesus offered a parable on the same theme in Luke 18 where a widow persistently asked a judge for justice and finally he gave her her desire. Jesus offered this parable to teach, "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). Elijah's example not only teaches us that we should persistently pray but that persistence pays off. On the seventh look the servant saw a small cloud, "like a man's hand." By the time Elijah sent word, by his servant, to Ahab to get moving because rain was approaching the sky had grown black with clouds, wind and rain. God honored the persistent prayer of Elijah and He will honor the persistent praying of his servants today.


Power of God

The prayer life of Elijah testifies that there is power in prayer. First we see that in his praying, Elijah encountered the power of God. It was God Who by His strength turned off the rains and it was His power that turned it on again. This was the case cited by James in his teaching on the subject of prayer. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit (James 5:16-18). This example should be of special encouragement to us for often we find that we face situation beyond our control. Through prayer we can access the infinite power of God, and bring it to bear upon our lives. The next time you need help send to heaven for help!

Power with Men

Prayer also gives us power with men. Note from the general tenor of the passage that Elijah is giving orders to the king. He instructed Ahab to eat and drink, in apparent celebration of the end of the drought. He ordered Ahab to get down the mountain in his chariot because rain was on the way. In both instances Ahab meekly obeyed. Ahab also did nothing to prevent the execution of the prophets of Baal (vs. 40). This submission to the prophet came from the answer to Elijah's prayer (vs. 36-37) and sent fire from heaven. The followers of the Lord have been and are in the minority but as we and those that oppose us see God answering prayer we have influence upon them. Is there someone in your life that you need to influence for good. Begin your ministry to them with prayer.

Power in Self

The last area in which we see power connected with prayer is in Elijah himself. The text states that while Ahab was making his way to Jezreel in his chariot Elijah tucks his long garment into his belt and runs the approximately twenty five miles to Jezreel, and makes it ahead of Ahab! It clearly state that this was because, "the hand of the LORD was on Elijah" (vs. 46). God not only gave the prophet His power in the fire and with Ahab, He gave Him power to run the race. We who are called to run the race (cf. Heb. 12:1) need His power. A vital prayer life can empower us.

One of the dangers in addressing prayer is that we may spend more time about prayer than we do actually praying. May the life and example of Elijah led us to not only talk about prayer but talk to our God in prayer.

Jesse Waggoner
Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church

©1997 Calvary Baptist Church