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Ordinary People And Extraordinary Praying

Preached 11/5/2008

Text: James 5:16-18. “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.

17 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.

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

Introduction: Elijah was an ordinary person. Verse 17 tells us that Elijah was “....subject to like passions.” We know that at times, Elijah grew very discouraged, if not depressed in his service to God. He possessed the same selfish, sinful passions that we possess. We have a tendency to elevate the personalities of the Bible, and make them super heroes. When we do this, it is a way of excusing ourselves by saying, “God couldn’t work in my life that way. I’m not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough.”

Elijah was an ordinary man, but make no mistake about it, he was an extraordinary prayer warrior! King Ahab and Queen Jezebel led Israel to forsake their God and to worship Baal. Baal was thought to be the god of rain. The people believed Baal controlled the heavens, the thunder, lightening and rain. Elijah’s prayer life proved different. Through his prayers, Elijah proved that Jehovah God controlled the weather patterns over Israel, and even brought fire down from Heaven!

The Bible is clear that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. For sure, ordinary people can do some extraordinary praying. How?

First, you must call upon God’s name in prayer. Verse 17 begins, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed.” Verse 18 begins, “And he prayed again.” James speaks of Elijah as a man of prayer.

In this letter, James instructs and encourages us as believers to:

1. pray when we need wisdom,

2. pray when we are suffering,

3. pray when we are tempted,

4. pray before we speak,

5. pray about the future,

6. pray when we are joyful,

7. pray when we are sick.

Does this characterize you? Is prayer your first choice, your first response to every need, every situation? So many times, we overlook prayer in our lives. If we are honest, we must admit that prayer is often our last resort.

Second, you must pray with a clean heart. Verse 16b, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Elijah is called a “....righteous man.” This does not mean that Elijah was perfect. We know better than that. This means simply that Elijah had a right standing, a right relationship with God. We know that we are made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. This is imputed righteousness. However, there should be practical righteousness in our lives as well. James tells us that faith minus works is dead. Elijah as God’s prophet, lived a life of obedience. He was willing to go where God wanted him to go, speak the message God told him to speak, do what God wanted him to do, even if it was dangerous, or even if it didn’t make sense!

Living “righteously” as God would have us live, includes confessing our sins, as well as forgiving others who have sinned against us, or who have at the least offended us. Verse 16a of our text says, “Confess your faults one to another.” Our prayers are hindered when we hold on to our sins and offenses. We must “come clean” with God, confessing our sins, forgiving others who have hurt or harmed us, as we enter into His presence in prayer.

Third, you must pray earnestly. Verse 17 says, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly.” The word “earnestly” literally in the Greek means “he prayed in prayer.” Someone said, “Elijah did not simply pray a prayer, ....he prayed!” Verse 16b says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Elijah prayed with a focus, a faith, and intensity, that gained the attention of Heaven! James 5:15a said, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick.”

We often pray with our minds on hold and our mouths on automatic. We need to pray “earnestly,” when we pray. Earnest prayer might be best pictured as a young child persistently pleading and petitioning a parent, refusing to take “no” for an answer.

Fourth, you must pray specifically. Verses 17-18 read, “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.

18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” Elijah prayed specifically about rain! He first prayed for it not to rain, resulting in a drought. He later prayed for the rain to return. Elijah prayed very specifically!

When I run to the store for my wife, I am usually equipped with a list. On that list are specific items, including the brand name and size or quantity that is needed. Without a list, I might forget what is needed and necessary in a recipe. It is the same when we pray. Making a list, forces us to really think about what is needed and necessary in our lives. We need to confess specific sins in our lives, intercede for specific people, seek for specific changes in our lives and the lives of others, ask for specific needs to be supplied! James tells us that many times we do not receive from God, because we do not ask!

Fifth, you must pray in God’s will. I Kings 17:1 reads, “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” Elijah’s prayer dealt specifically about rain, because the Lord had made it clear that he was to do so. I Kings 18:1 says, “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” Obviously, it was God’s will and purpose, to change the rain pattern over Israel. Elijah could pray in confidence about these things, because God made it known to him.

At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson, former New York Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic in brevity and poignancy: "Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen." We must confess that sometimes we can be short sighted and selfish in our prayers. We can fail to consider that God desires something entirely different, has something else in mind. As James reminds us, we must always say, “if the Lord wills.” The apostle Paul prayed three times for his “thorn in the flesh” to be removed, and the Lord chose not to remove it. Jesus Himself prayed, “...nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Sixth, we must pray with the God’s glory in mind. What was the motivation of Elijah’s prayers? I Kings 18:36-7 tells us. “And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the LORD God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.” The intent of Elijah’s prayers was to demonstrate that his God was the one and only God in Israel. Baal was not a god at all! The Lord God was glorified in Elijah’s prayers.

The purpose of our prayers are not to vindicate us or make us appear to be right and righteous. Our prayers are to accomplish God’s purposes and make Him look good!

Did you know that General George S. Patton was a prayer warrior? During the Battle of the Bulge, inclement weather was hindering the efforts of the Third Army to counter a Nazi attack in Belgium. Patton called on Chaplin George Metcalf to write a prayer for fair weather that Patton later sent out to all members of the Third Army. Hundreds of prayers went up for favorable weather, and the effects were dramatic and immediate. On December 23, the heavy fog had lifted and Allied aircraft were successfully pushing back the Nazi advance.

God can use ordinary people to pray extraordinary prayers, which can accomplish extraordinary things. Are you a prayer warrior? You can be encouraged to know that God can use you, an ordinary person, to be a prayer warrior and pray extraordinary prayers!

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