Thursday, 6 January 2011

Thinking Thursday: Elijah and Persistence

Reading: 1Kings 17:17-24 & 1 Kings 18:41-46

When we think of the prophet Elijah, we remember the spectacular stories. We think of the widow’s pot of flour and jug of oil that never ran out, and the fire falling from heaven to consume Elijah’s offering on Mount Carmel before the prophets of Baal. But I re-read the stories the other day and noticed something I hadn’t seen before.

Elijah was living with the widow, whose supplies lasted as long as she fed him. Then one day her only son died and she cried out to Elijah. Elijah carried the son upstairs and laid him on his bed. He prayed to God to heal him and then lay down on him. And what happened? Nothing.

Again Elijah prayed and lay down on the dead son. Again nothing happened. What would you have done if it had been you in Elijah’s place? I know I would have begun to doubt. Was God going to answer my prayer? Had I misunderstood? Was I praying for the wrong thing? The widow’s son was raised back to life – but not until the third time.

After Elijah’s spectacular confrontation with the prophets of Baal he told Ahab the king to go home quickly as it was going to rain. Then he went to a cliff top and knelt down and bowed before God in prayer. He sent his assistant to look out at the sky. Nothing.

Elijah’s credibility was really at stake this time. It wasn’t just an unknown widow in a tiny town. He had told the king it was going to rain. And did it rain when he prayed? No.

I was amazed when I read the story. Elijah sent his assistant seven times before he came back and reported that he saw a little cloud “like a fist.”

We often give mental assent to things which we find hard to believe when faced with the reality. We know God has His own timing and His own plans (Isa. 55:8-9). We know we should be persistent in prayer and wait for the Lord. But what have you been praying for and not yet seen? Will you be like Elijah and keep on until God fulfils His promise?

Hebrews 10:35-36
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

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