Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But He (God) said to me, ‘My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you, (sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble); for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in your weakness.”
II Corinthians 12: 9
“Give me a task too big
Too hard for human hands.
Then shall I come at length
To lean on Thee;
And leaning find my strength.”
W. H. Fowler
Today’s Study Text:
“The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t -- not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.”
James 5: 17, 18
The Message Bible
“Prayers To Be Reckoned With”
“There is a communion with God that asks for nothing, yet asks for everything…(she) who seeks the Father more than anything (she) asks, for (she) is not likely to ask amiss.”
What do I think it means when the Bible tells us that our prayers are something to be “reckoned with”?
How seriously do I take my “prayer life”?
“The great tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer.”
F. B. Meyer
“This poor (girl) cried, and the Lord heard (her) and saved (her) out of all (her) troubles.”
Psalm 34: 6
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
Psalm 34: 6
I chose to share the above text with you today so the words written by the Psalmist David are comprehended by both God’s daughters and sons, for all of us, no matter our gender, need to draw into our hearts the message this passage in Scripture conveys.
Here’s why. When the Apostle James, writing in what scholars tell us may have been A.D. 48, shared the words found in James 5: 17, 18, he wanted to give the young Christian church some guidance as they developed a “practical Christian” life. We find James shared with the believers the fact that when the going gets tough, it’s time to pray. But he didn’t just stop by saying when you’re feeling bad -- pray. Instead, as James learned from following Jesus’ footsteps during His ministry on earth, there is a man in the Old Testament who is an example of someone who was a man of prayer. The man’s name was Elijah.
In the book of James, first he assured his readers that Elijah was a regular person, one whom we could relate to. And he did this by using a Greek word to describe Elijah which is used only in one other place in the Bible. When the Apostle Paul went on his first missionary trip, as the book of Acts reveals, things didn’t go so well for Paul and his companion Barnabas. But something unusual happened when they arrived in the town of Lystra in Asia Minor. William Petersen describes the event this way: “A crippled man was healed, and the two missionaries found themselves to be instant celebrities. The townsfolk thought they must be two Greek gods who had dropped in out of the blue. They called Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul, Mercury, and were preparing to sacrifice some oxen to them.”
You can only begin to imagine the concern Paul and Barnabas had as they witnessed this outpouring from the citizens of Lystra. This is when, after getting the attention of the people, Paul said: “We also are men, of like nature with you” (Acts 14: 15, R.S.V.). It is here we discover the same phrase used by James to illustrate the fact that Elijah was a man with like passions as we have. Literally, the Greek word means “of like feelings.” “Homo” meaning “like,” as in a homogeneous class and “pathos” meaning “feeling” as in sympathy or empathy.
The point James was trying to get across to the early Christians was that Elijah, someone who was revered by the Christian church members, was not a god. He didn’t possess any special powers. But then James follows up his, “Elijah’s a regular guy” narrative with this very interesting point. He told his readers down through the ages that when Elijah prayed for rain to stop falling -- it did. For three and a half years to be exact. And then he went on to say that when Elijah prayed for it to rain again, the sky let loose with showers of blessings.
The conclusion James drew from his earlier statement about prayer in James 5: 16, was that just as Elijah prayed and his prayers were answered, the same thing happens to the righteous now, both men and women, when they pray, too.
I love the words used in The Message Bible in this passage. It states that, your prayers and mine, are “something to be reckoned with.” In the King James Version of the Bible, the words “effectual,” “fervent,” “availeth” and “much” are used as the descriptive words in this same passage. When I looked in my Greek translation, I found these descriptive words which, when used in a phrase would read something like this: “Active mighty prayers, which are lifted to heaven without ceasing, will prevail with strength and bring plenteous abundance.” This is the way Elijah prayed -- a common man who was actively praying, even when a Baal worshiper and his Baal-crazed wife ruled Israel. The result of such persevering prayer was that Elijah’s persistence paid off. He prevailed in strength and as the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 3: 20, Elijah’s answered prayer resulted in all of Israel receiving exceedingly and abundantly above all that could have been asked for. Just so you and I don’t forget -- Elijah wasn’t some god from outer space. He wasn’t a Jupiter or Mercury. He was most likely a sheep-herding farmer from Gilead. A common man, who lived in the remote mountains of Gilead. But he knew how to pray!
What does James want to get across to you and me? I believe it is really simple. God will use anyone -- any person who is willing. And if they will rely on their heavenly Father for their power and their guidance -- there isn’t anything that will stand in their way for their prayers will avail much. As Matthew Henry further explains, “This instance of the extraordinary efficacy (power) of prayer is recorded for encouragement even to ordinary Christians to be instant and earnest in prayer. God never says to any of (us) that you seek My face in vain.” And just one last point, if you feel that you aren’t “righteous” enough, as Matthew Henry reminds us, “Elijah had his infirmities, and was subject to disorder in his passions as well as others. In prayer we must not look to the merit of man, but to the grace of God.”
I’m thankful the Apostle James shared the example of Elijah with you and me. Doesn’t it encourage your heart today, to know that it is not special people who move the heavenly hand of God on behalf of his children here on earth. It is praying people like you and like me. I love the way, author Jill Briscoe describes prayer. “Prayer is a declaration of our dependence on God. It isn’t something mechanical you do; it is somewhere you go to meet Someone you know.” This is why Elijah prevailed with God when he prayed -- for he knew the “Someone” he was speaking with!
"Give to us the spirit of prayer, frequent and fervent, holy and persevering; and unreprovable faith, a just and humble hope, and a never-failing charity.”
“I leave aside my shoes -- my ambitions,
undo my watch -- my timetable,
take off my glasses -- my views,
unclip my pen -- my work,
put down my keys -- my security,
to be alone with You,
the only true God.
After being with You,
I take up my shoes -- to walk in Your ways,
strap on my watch -- to live in Your time,
put on my glasses -- to look at Your world,
clip on my pen -- to write up Your thoughts,
pick up my keys -- to open up Your doors.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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