I might mention we have a few copies of a new issue of "The Message" (a gospel paper we published in Southern Africa, in English) back there for you to get. I'd be glad for you to take a copy or several copies, read them and give them out to your neighbors. This is the first issue printed on our new press, in fact, and we've got some technical difficulties as you will notice. But nothing of a serious or permanent nature. We've got an ink problem. Apparently our ink doesn't match our press. But we'll get that sorted out in the next week or two and find some ink that does match our press and then we'll have lots of that same edition plus another edition which is also ready to print, ready for you to distribute to your friends. The issue that's back there now has an interesting article on the front page about a fabulous dog. I want you to be sure and read that. It's under the title, "Introducing Real Baptists to You." And it seems that this dog had an incredible tale --- So you read the story to get the rest of it.
Let's turn to James chapter 5. I plan soon to speak to you again from Haggai, but not today probably, and certainly not this morning. But probably next week or week after, I will go ahead with my series on Haggai. I have another sermon that I've been studying on that I will be preaching to you before long also that I might mention. You know, coming attractions. And that is, "Does God Know You By Name?" "Does God Know You By Name?" That's an interesting theme. And it's a good Scriptural theme, too. "Does God Know You By Name?" So, I'll soon be preaching on that as well.
Turn now to James chapter 5. I want to preach today or teach a Bible lesson on the subject of, "Effectual Prayer." Or one could say, "Effectual Fervent Prayer," though the word fervent doesn't really add all that much to the title. Reading from James 5:16: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer," there's the title, "of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man . . ." ("Elias," in case you may not understand that the New Testament spelling on some of these names is different, refers to "Elijah)". "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."
Let us pray. Our Father, we thank You for the reading of Your Word. We pray that You will bless it as we study it together today with these people. In Christ's name. Amen.
Now this message today is in two parts. It has several subdivisions under each part but the first part is just a general look at this idea of effectual prayer or effective or effectual fervent prayer. And the first thing that we notice when we begin to think about this in an organized fashion is that in order to get a prayer answered, we must have the right motive. A right motive is necessary.
You know, so many people when they start to pray, they say, "God, give me this. God, give me that. God, give me something else." And that's not a proper motive for praying, is it? Now it would be a proper motive to say, "Lord, I believe that if You'll bless me in such and such a way that I can and will use this for Your glory." Now that'd be a different kind of motive from this, "gimme, gimme, gimme business." But there's so much of this "gimme, gimme, gimme" when we start praying.
I've been trying to wean myself from that and start spending my time in prayer in thanking God for His blessings. And if we thank God enough for the blessings He's already given us, we wouldn't have to worry about future blessings, He'd just take care of them automatically. Now don't misunderstand, there's nothing wrong with bringing our petitions to God, not a thing wrong with it. Not a thing wrong with asking God's blessings or asking God's blessings on a certain particular thing in your behalf. There's nothing wrong with that. But let's be sure we have the right motive when we pray because without the right motive, there is no hope at all of getting an answer, a favorable answer to the prayer.
In James chapter 4, verse 3, we find this clearly stated. This problem of not having a right motive, where James says these words, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." Now perhaps we should go back up there and read verses 1 and 2 above that and then read verse 3 and it might make a better context for you. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not." Then he goes ahead and says the words that I've just read to you, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."
So without the proper motive for prayer, it's a waste of time to say the words. It's a waste of time to even think the words. You know, I'm sure that a lot of our prayers don't get any higher than our head. And it shouldn't be that way, should it? It should not be that way, yet in the case of many, many Christians, I'm quite certain that most of our prayers seldom get above our head. And that means, of course, in reality that they're not really prayers, doesn't it? Because the real prayer of His child is always heard by God. It's always answered as well. It's not always positively answered. Sometimes it's answered with a no.
When you're growing—when you were raising up your children, every time they asked you for something, did you give it to them? No, you didn't. Did you always give them an answer? Yes, you did. The answer was always either yes or no, wasn't it? Yes, no or maybe. And that's the way God answers our prayers. Only He doesn't use the maybe, He uses the yes and the no. And then He delivers on what He says. So the right motive is necessary to have effectual prayer.
There's another thing that we notice immediately when we start looking at the subject of prayer from an organized viewpoint and that is a clean heart is required. A clean heart is required. If we turn over to Psalms chapter 66, we find a verse that clearly states this for us. So many people come before the Lord without a clean heart and they say words calling it prayer. But they're wasting their time because a clean heart is required to pray with expectation of an answer.
In Psalms 66, verse 18, it says this, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." "The Lord will not hear me." So before we can pray with expectation of an affirmative answer, with expectation of a proper answer, we must have a clean heart. If we go before the Lord with our hands covered with blood, the blood of those we could have witnessed to and didn't, the blood of those we should have witnessed to and didn't, how can we expect Him to hear and answer our prayer? The psalmist just said to us here that if he sees iniquity in his heart, then he realizes that God will not hear him. So, let's clean up our own lives first. Let's clean up our own hearts first. Then when we do this, we can and will be able to pray and get real answers from God to real prayers. Without doubt, without fear, without hesitation, we can know if we pray with a right motive, with a clean heart and with some of the other requirements that we're going to give you in a moment, we can know for a certainty that our prayers will be heard, our prayers will be answered in the appropriate manner.
Now if we think again, the third step in the organized look at what it requires to have effectual fervent prayer, we notice in Mark chapter 11, something interesting. Which is sometimes a problem to all of us. You know, we all like to think that we never carry a grudge. Now don't we? How many of you here carry grudges all the time? Hold up your hand. Oh, there's one fellow that admits it. But the rest of us do it sometimes, don't we? The rest of us do it sometimes. Now that won't get the job done when it comes to praying, will it? If we've got a grudge against a brother, that won't get the job done when we start to pray.
And the Scripture clearly teaches that. And we just as well admit that sometimes we all do carry grudges. We don't like to admit it publicly like this, but you saw both my hands were up. Sometimes I do. I try not to. We shouldn't do it. We shouldn't ever do it. And yet, it's just nearly impossible for this old Adam that we live in to not carry one sometimes, isn't it? "Why, that rascal, he did so and so to me and I haven't forgiven him yet." You know that attitude I'm talking about. That's carrying a grudge, isn't it? Now, that—I'm not saying that you should go out here and some fellow that's done a dirty trick on you, and give him a good opportunity to do it to you a second time. That's not what I'm talking about.
It's like the old Indian, the red Indian saying as you would call it here. The old Indian in America used to say, "You do it to me once, shame on you; but you do a dirty trick on me the second time, shame on me." Now there's nothing wrong with that attitude, but we shouldn't carry a grudge for that first time he did us the dirty trick, even though we're careful to see that he doesn't have a chance to do it the second time. That's the difference. There's a difference between giving him an opportunity to do it to you the second time and just being cautious and yet not carrying a grudge, isn't it? There's a difference. Nothing wrong with being sure that he doesn't get a chance to do you a dirty trick the second time. But there is something wrong with hating him and carrying a grudge and hatred in your heart about that first time that he did it to you.
We see here in Mark chapter 11, if we start reading at verse 25, that an unforgiving spirit hinders our prayers. This, of course, unforgiving spirit means carrying a grudge, doesn't it? Carrying a go—a grudge. Verse 25, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Now if you look at the Lord's Prayer, you remember, of course, from memory many of you approximately what it says. When you begin to pray there or to read in the matter of the Lord's Prayer, in verse 9 of chapter 6 of Matthew, we find this same thought borne out about the unforgiving spirit would hinder prayer. Beginning with verse 9, chapter 6, Matthew. "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth—in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts [or trespasses], as we forgive our debtors."
Now when you get down to that, you see again a confirmation of this idea that unless we're willing to forgive, then it's going to hinder our own prayer life. Because this is part of this model prayer that the Lord Himself gave when He said, "And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
And then He goes ahead and says something similar to what Mark said in chapter 11, just below His example of the prayer when He says, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
So, we've seen so far, first proposition that's required for effectual fervent prayer is that a right motive is necessary. Secondly, we have seen that a clean heart is required. And just now, thirdly, we have seen that an unforgiving spirit hinders effective or effectual prayer.
Now the fourth thing that we want to call your attention to about the things that are necessary to have effectual fervent prayer is this --- wrong relationships hinder. Wrong relationships hinder! One could look at several different places in Scripture, but let's look just quickly at I Peter chapter 3 for a reference in connection with this. Wrong relationships hinder. You say, "Well, how do we know we're in a wrong relationship?" Or "What are you talking about a wrong relationship?" God has a plan for men's lives. He has a plan for men's lives. If men follow His plan, in obedience to His plan, in service to Him, then their lives can and will be happy, purposeful and worthwhile. If men refuse to follow this plan and pattern that He has in—for their life, then their lives will be useless, wasted and unhappy. Now that's how simple it is. You might think, "Well, my life's not wasted whether I do or don't follow God's plan." Well, in the things that really matter, it is and will be wasted. You will have lived for nothing, unless you accept and follow God's plan for man's life.
In I Peter 3, beginning with verse 1, we read a little bit about these wrong relationships which hinder. "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives. While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands," notice we've been pouring on the ladies, now let's switch over to the husbands. "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."
Now that's what we're aiming at, isn't it? Without this proper relationship, and this can be shown in various other Scriptures to include also other hindering, improper relationships in prayer, but this is one of the clearest and best. The relationship between husband and wife. Let me ask you a little, silly question now. If you got up on Sunday morning at 7:30, let's say, and your wife was late getting breakfast ready. And besides that, she burned the toast and cooked your eggs the wrong way. And the coffee wasn't fit to drink. Besides being way late with everything. And then when you groan and moan about it, she sasses you. You know that word sass, don't you? Now, could you go right into your bedroom then and get down on your knees and pray a proper prayer to the Lord? No, you couldn't. There's no way, is there? Just couldn't be done. Now that's what we're talking about. Improper relationships will hinder our prayers to God.
Just can't pray when it's that way, can we? You might say some words but it wouldn't be any prayer. And I'll guarantee you it'd fall straight down to the carpet, wouldn't it? Same way if the wife had the same opportunity to go to the bedroom and pray; she couldn't do it either then, could she? No way she could. Just couldn't be done. That's what we're talking about, this little, silly illustration. But it happens all the time, doesn't it? These improper relationships get in the way of our prayers to God. And how can we expect to pray an effectual prayer when our relationships are not straight? God has a plan for men and women to live together and work together for His glory. And if this plan is not followed, there is no way that we can have a proper prayer life. Just can't be done.
We have a problem that's becoming serious all over the world now, but it's well ahead of the rest of the world here in South Africa, this problem. That is, when I say it's well ahead, I mean it's much more serious here than it is in most of the world. I've not yet been able to understand exactly why it's more serious here than it is in most of the rest of the world, but it is --- obviously so. And that is, this so-called women's lib movement. I think there must be something in the marriage laws or something here which tends to make that situation worse here, I don't know if that's it or not. I suspect that may be it. Because certainly the situation is worse here in this problem than it is in most of the rest of the world, at this time. That is the improper relationship between men and women. You say, "Well, I don't think the woman ought to be in subjection to her husband." Okay. You can think that all you want to. It doesn't make any difference what you think or what I think, God says she should be. And God says that she'll never be happy unless she is. You say, "Well, he's not worth being in subjection to." Well, why did you marry him then? You say, "Well, he's an idiot and I'm an intelligent person." Okay. You know what that makes you, don't you? You're a bigger idiot for marrying this idiot you're talking about. You'd have to be a bigger idiot than him to marry him, wouldn't you? There's just no way of getting around God's plan. And God's plan is the only way for men and women to be happy.
I know I'm chasing a rabbit here, getting a little bit off the subject but it's a good rabbit to chase and it needs to be chased once in a while here in South Africa. And all over the world, but it's even more serious here than it is in many parts of the world. If the woman is not willing to be submissive to her husband, he shouldn't be her husband. She shouldn't have married him in the first place. And she'll never be happy unless she is willing to let him be the head of the house and the head of their affairs and to be her own head as well. Okay, that's free now. There's no extra charge for that. That's not even part of the sermon charge.
Going on now a little bit further. We've been thinking and giving you four particular, special things that are necessary for effectual prayer. Remember they were: first, the right motive is necessary. The second was the clean heart is required. Third, an unforgiving spirit will hinder your prayers. And fourth, wrong relationships will hinder your prayers.
Now let's ask this question and answer it with a biblical example. How effective is prayer? Ask yourself that question. How effective is prayer? The best example that I know is Elijah. If you look with me at I Kings 17:1, we have an example of the effectiveness of prayer. I realize that we're not all Elijahs. I'm not pretending that we're all Elijahs or that we all ever will be Elijahs, we're not and we won't be. But we are children and servants of the same King that he served. And so, this does have a lesson for us though we are not Elijah. First Kings 17:1 says: "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."
And we find in another place in the Scripture that the length of time that this drought was brought on the land was three and one-half years. It doesn't say it right here at this exact spot but it tells us in another place referring back to this. Three and half years. Now here he prayed and the rain was withheld. Now that's how effective Elijah's prayer was.
This was one of the high points of our trip to Israel the last time we were there, when we went up on mount Carmel. And they've got a fantastic statue, very well done of Elijah up there on top of the—of mount Carmel. It shows him standing with his head—uh, with his foot on the head of one of these prophets of Baal and he's got the old knife in his head and has just chopped the prophet's head off, these prophets of the false god. But that was one of the high points of our visit to Israel the last time we were there.
But now continuing with this. We said how effective is prayer and we're giving you the example of Elijah. And we showed to you there from chapter 17, verse 1 of I Kings that he prayed and the rain was withheld. Rain didn't fall for three and a half years. Not even dew for three and a half years on this land of Israel.
Now what happened here is this, we notice first that God gave him boldness to stand for God. You've got to have proper boldness to stand for God in order to get your prayers answered. What did Elijah do here? He stood right up there in front of old Ahab. Now who's old Ahab? He's king of Israel. Who is Elijah? He's one of these wild, woolly, bush prophets.
A bush preacher is what he was. But he was a prophet of the Most High God. And he wasn't a bit afraid to stand up there in front of the king of Israel. Now what about the king of Israel? He was married to that Jezebel, wasn't he? Who was a high priestess of Baal. So Ahab was a very wicked man who had married perhaps the most wicked woman of all the whole world at the time he married her. And yet, Elijah wasn't afraid to stand right up there before him and just say, "Okay, Ahab, you're in a heap of trouble. There's not going to be any rain here from now on until I say so." Now that's boldness, isn't it? And Jezebel had already been killing the prophets of God, this high priestess of the false god Baal. She'd already been killing the prophets of God, she'd already tried to kill all of them, but had not yet succeeded. In addition to Elijah, we find in another place that the Lord had 7,000 more hidden out in various places that she didn't even know about, too, that didn't bow to Baal.
God through this prayer of Elijah (the effectiveness of prayer here we could say) gave him boldness to stand for God right here in front of this wicked king and tell him just flat out. "No way, Ahab. You're in a heap of trouble. And you're not going to have any rain or even any dew on the land until I say so."
If we turn over to Acts chapter 4, we find another example of this boldness to stand before God. Acts chapter 4, verse 23. Thinking about how effective is prayer, remember. We said that Elijah's prayer life or prayer relationship to God gave him boldness to stand for God and also strengthened his praying. Now in Acts 4:23 we find another good example of boldness to stand. "And being let go," now what are we talking about here? We're talking about this time when the first severe persecution came on the church. And Peter has been arrested and abused by the high priest, the leaders of the Jews and then they have been released and the thing, of course, that precipitated the whole thing was this healing of the lame man, the first apostolic miracle that was performed. When uh, Peter healed the lame man, and by the way, you can prove in that story that he was a Baptist preacher. Because he said, "Silver and gold have I none." So he must have been a Baptist preacher because he was broke, you see.
Anyway, he raised up the sick man, the lame man and healed him. And then it made such an uproar that the Jewish leaders decided they had to do something about it. They seized them and abused them and then they were let go after awhile because they had such boldness in defending themselves and speaking out before the Sanhedrin. Then verse 23, continuing, "And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?" And that, of course, is a reference back to Psalms. "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. For to do whatsoever they—thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings."
They had abused them and threatened them if they went out and preached anymore in the name of Christ. "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word. By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." So there's another example of boldness and prayer.
If we go back to the example of Elijah that we were using, we can see many examples in his life of the answer to this question, "How effective is prayer?" We've mentioned already a couple of examples, the one from Elijah and one from Acts; one from I Kings and one from Acts, about how prayer gave boldness to stand for God. Now let's notice the second thing about this how effective is prayer and that is that through prayer Elijah's every need was supplied. Everyone of his needs was supplied.
If you look at the story of Elijah and read it, you find in one period of time he was—went out into the desert mountains, the hills of Judea there and hid out in a cave by the brook Cherith. And he was there in a place where there was no habitation, no other people to feed him or supply his needs, and certainly, of course, in those desert hills no food available of any consequence. And yet, what happened? The ravens fed him. The ravens fed him. They brought meat or food and drink to him. The ravens out there at the brook Cherith. And we saw that little brook Cherith down at the end near to the Jordan River. But, of course, we didn't follow it up into the mountains there. It would have been probably half a hard day's work to get—walk up there to where you might be in the area where Elijah was. And it would have been terribly burning hot down near Jericho. But God supplied his needs there through the ravens bringing food and drink to him.
Then if you go on further in the story of Elijah, you find another thing, another miraculous way or prayer answering way in which his needs were supplied. You notice the story of the widow of Zarephath. He came up, the Lord told him to go here after he'd been there for some time at Cherith. And the Lord sent him to this place. The drought was getting terrible and he got his drink there from the brook Cherith and it began to dry up and the Lord told him to go over and see this widow lady at Zarephath. He went over there and the drought had been so bad and so long on the land that she and this one little child were about to die from starvation. She had one little cup of meal, if I remember the amount correctly, and a little bit of oil. And she was going to cook this little bit and then die in peace with her child she thought.
When Elijah got there, he said, "Now wait a minute," he says, "fix me a little bit first." She had already told him, and says, "I don't have enough." He said, "Well, you just go ahead and fix it anyway." And she fixed him a little cake and then for a very long period of time the meal barrel never got empty and the oil jar never got less, either. So that there was plenty of food for her, for her son, and for Elijah as well. And then, of course, she got a special blessing from God out of this. Not only in the fact that her own needs were supplied and her child's needs were supplied, but also in the fact that Elijah raised her child from the dead. So she got amply repaid, of course, in many different ways for this supplying the needs of Elijah in answer to his prayers to God.
We notice another thing here that prayer gave him power to perform miracles. And then if we go a little further, we find in I Kings chapter 18, we've got to hurry to finish here. In I Kings chapter 18, beginning with verse 25, and if you look there, you'll find the contest between Jehovah and Baal, or the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, if you want to put it that way. But prayer won the victory over his enemies. That's what won the victory over his enemies. It wasn't that Elijah was such a handsome fellow. It wasn't that Elijah was such an intelligent fellow. It wasn't that Elijah was such a big man, although apparently he was a rather large person. It wasn't any of these things that made him successful. But it was his prayer that won the victory over the enemies of God.
If you read that from 25 down through verse 40, which we won't take time for now, but if you read that whole story there, you'll see that basically it goes like this. They set up a contest. Elijah set up a contest. He challenged the prophets of Baal to have a contest with him on mount Carmel to see whose God would answer with fire from heaven. That was the general basis of the contest. And so they set up the contest. They all agreed to it. They were quite sure that they would win, these prophets of Baal. And they called together all the children of Israel to see the demonstration. And they, prophets of Baal, put their sacrifice, their animal on the sac—on the altar and they prayed and they prayed and they prayed to Baal to send down fire from heaven. Nothing happened. They started early in the morning and they went on all day. Nothing happened. They even began to cut themselves and to shed their own blood in the earnestness of their prayers to Baal. They did all kinds of things to try to get the attention of Baal and to get the fire to fall from heaven.
And, of course, old Elijah was standing over there in the shade of the tree enjoying the whole show. He said, "Well, why don't you yell a little louder, maybe he's asleep and he doesn't hear you or maybe he's gone on a trip. Maybe he'll be back after awhile," making fun of their false god, of course. And after he fooled around with them most of the day that way, we find the real answer beginning in verse 31. See, they had started early in the morning and went until the middle of the time of the evening sacrifice and there was no answer of any kind. Not a sign that Baal had heard a word they said.
"Now Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me." That's verse 30. "And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord." Of course, he wouldn't use the altar that had been built to Baal, so he built a new altar with the twelve stones. "He made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed."
According to students who have studied it, two measures of seed would be about eight pecks.
"As great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put he wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said," and he goes ahead and describes it here in more detail.
Then he goes on to say: "Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time." So, they poured eight barrels of water on the altar, wood, and sacrifice. "And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time." So, they put another four barrels on, makes twelve barrels. "And they did it the third time. And the water ran about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water." So, the trench apparently held about two barrels, according to the measures given above.
"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. 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."
Then what happened? "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said," notice this exact wording here, "The Lord, he is," it didn't say, "He is God." What did they say? "He is THE God." In other words, the only one. "The Lord, he is THE God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there." The brook Kishon runs down at the foot of mount Carmel.
"And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain." He had told him—old Ahab about three and a half years before this that there would be no rain or even any dew on the land until he told him so. Now here about three and a half years later he tells him, "Get up, get ready, big rain is coming." "There is a sound of abundance of rain."
Then if you go ahead and read the rest of the story here, you find that he went up apart himself on mount Carmel with only his servant with him and he started praying for rain to come. And he told his servant to go out and look toward the sea and see if a—there was a cloud. And he went out and said, "There's nothing." And then he told him and he did this same thing again seven times. And at the seventh time when he'd been praying and had sent his servant out seven times to check, then the servant came back and said, there's a little, tiny cloud the size of a man's hand in sight out there over the sea. And so then Elijah sent the servant down and told him, "Hurry down to Ahab and tell him to get your—get his chariot ready and get down from the mountain in order that the rain wouldn't stop him before he got home." And then, in the meantime the clouds came up strong, the heavens became black, as it says in verse 45. "And there was a great rain," and a strong wind.
And Ahab rode in his chariot and went to Jezreel, which is not too far away there from mount Carmel. And this is an interesting side note here or a footnote to the story. Old Elijah, grizzled, old man with a big, long beard, he girded up his loins and ran before Ahab. And Ahab was in the king's racing chariot, of course. Ran before him to the entrance of Jezreel. So here's this old prophet racing along with the white beard streaming out behind and running faster than the racing chariot to beat him to Jezreel.
And then the last thing we want to bring to you about this prayers of Elijah is this, we find that when he got into a time of testing. You say, "Well, how could he get into a time of testing? Here he's called down fire from heaven. Here he's stopped the rain. Here he's brought the rain again. How could a man like that get into a time of testing?" Well, he did, didn't he? And you know what cause it? It was that woman Jezebel. She was after him. Cause here he had just about wiped out here prophets of Baal. He had just about torn up her playhouse and she was after him. He could stand up before these prophets of Baal and call down fire from heaven. He could stand up before Ahab and tell him, "King, you're in a heap of trouble." But he couldn't stand up to this wicked woman. He was in trouble himself.
And he ran away because of fear of Jezebel. Because she sent word to him and said, "You're going to be dead just like those prophets of Baal before the sun goes down." And he ran away. A time of testing, a time of weakness. And he ran and ran and ran, down into the desert country to Beersheba or near Beersheba. And there the angel fed him in his running away from Jezebel.
And then after he was fed by the angel --- angel's food --- it says he went for forty days and nights in the strength of that food to the mountain of God. Which was probably referring to Horeb. And he went for forty days and nights through the desert country down there to Horeb.
But leaving that now, let's close with this thought, the—"How effective is prayer?" We've given you a lot of examples. Mostly from the story of Elijah, but many others could have been given. I want to give you this one short one to close with. How effective is prayer? Think with me for a minute now about the thief on the cross. It was very effective for him, wasn't it? He didn't pray a big, fancy prayer, did he? He didn't roll out big, long words that just rolled off the end of his tongue. But what did he do? On the cross there, hanging beside Jesus, he said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Just a little, simple sinner's prayer, wasn't it? And what happened? How effective was it? How effective was it? It could not possibly have been more effective, could it? Because what was the answer that Jesus gave him? He said, "Today," or this day, "shalt thou be with me in paradise."
That was the most effective prayer that one could hope for, wasn't it? Here he is a sinner, a convicted criminal worthy of everything he suffered, not a thing good that he can do, no good works that he can perform because he's already hanging on the cross beside Jesus. Nothing he can do, he can't be baptized, he can't do any kind of good works, he can't even say a good word, but he can pray. And he said, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."
In the prayer he both confessed Christ as Lord and prayed to Him, didn't he? And the answer came back, "This day or today shalt thou be with me in paradise." His prayer was as effective as it possibly could be, because it resulted in his salvation. That's recorded in Luke 23.