8 Oct 2013
It is my perception that today; prayer inhabits a very low place of power in the lives of the people of God. A gathering specifically for public prayer in our places of worship is all but an extinct practice. Seeking the needs of the church from our Father first is a seemingly forgotten tactic. The perspective regarding prayer in our churches most often takes a place similar to that of the caboose rather than that of the engine. And most of our trains are operating to our own satisfaction without even a caboose at all.
The very early church seemed to deeply depend upon and seek God in prayer for her every need. What has changed? What has moved us from being dependent on the power and wisdom of God to being dependent on our own power and particularly our own wisdom?
A somewhat unsophisticated answer to this question may be that we have swelled up in our pride and systematically resized our God to nearly our own dimension. We now have elaborate associations and governing denominations and other unifying relationships that are adept at using organization and administration to utilize the talents of men to do the work of God.
Together with the work of organizations we have on our own part developed a stylish science which produces considerable smoke, but in the process we have failed to find God’s fire. Man made smoke seems to manufacture a flurry of foul fragrance while repeatedly resisting and diminishing the reflection of light.
From where did Elijah find fire?
1 Kings 18:36-40 (NASB77)
36 Then it came about at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.
37 "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that Thou, O LORD, art God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again."
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." (emphasis added)
This incident occurred during very desperate times. It had not rained in the land of Israel for nearly three years. The land and the people were very distressed. When God had thoroughly prepared Ahab, God directed Elijah to speak to this king. It was at this time Elijah dictated to the king:
19 "Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."
This meeting was not Elijah’s idea. For we have his testimony ……“I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word.” Every detail of this entire incident was conducted precisely according to the plan of God. Our plans are not even on the same planet as those of God. God makes this clear in His word. Yet how is it that we continue to rely upon our plans and organization, communication and administrative skills and wonder why we see only sub-supernatural or non-existent results?
Notice while Elijah did everything according to God’s word to him, the primary pivotal part of the instruction of God was to pray! Elijah did not start relying upon God on Mt. Carmel. Listen to the testimony of Elijah to Ahab. 1 Kings 17:1 (NASB77)
1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."
“Before Whom I stand” is Elijah’s way of saying that He stood waiting as a servant submitted to the will and plans of God. We know little about what Elijah did during the nearly three years of drought, but we know that on that day on Mt. Carmel God used Elijah to destroy the enemies of God and turn the people back to Him. Elijah accomplished more in one day as he waited and obeyed God and prayed than he could have otherwise completed in his own efforts in a lifetime. When we have God’s plan coupled with God’s power the results are consistently supernatural.
We live in a culture that shouts loud and long that we must keep busy! Of course God desires that we stay employed. The crucial question is with whose agenda are we employed, God’s or ours? In Elijah’s case during these years of waiting on God to work with the people and the king, he was provided for by first some birds, ravens bringing him bread and meat two times each day; the makings for cold meat sandwiches brought two times each day by some big birds!
When the brook Cherith dried up [Elijah was subject to the same drought conditions that effected all the others in this land] God directed him to move to Zarephath in the region of Sidon where God had prepared a widow to provide for Elijah both his food and housing. But the widow had nothing and it was through Elijah’s instructions that God supplied for the widow what she needed for herself and for her son and the provisions needed for Elijah. Could there be times when our practical plans that seem necessary to meet our needs for food and shelter may not actually be the plans of God?
Perhaps we can learn something from considering what Elijah did not do. He did not provide for himself food and shelter, God provided for his needs. He did not organize a ministry or encourage groups to promote the supernatural multiplication of flour and oil. God records no ministry of Elijah during this time beyond that to the widow and her son. Yet in this ministry, the exact ministry that he was called to by God, Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead! Out of the provision for his needs God provided an amazing opportunity for ministry as Elijah obeyed the direction of God.
It seems apparent that Elijah did not pursue the plans of men to accomplish the work of God. Perhaps Elijah’s first priority was to continually stand before His God, and to be pleasing in the sight of the God before Whom he stood. He displays little interest in pleasing men or even the king. Elijah seems to closely conform to the description found in Isaiah 66: “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” - Isaiah 66:2b
We see in these passages Elijah on two different occasions proclaims: "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand……”
If prayer is to be an authentic priority in our lives we must ask ourselvesbefore whom westand. Do we stand in the center of the stadium of the somewhat self sufficient? Or do we reside in a small place in the park of the penitent and persistent petitioner?
Jesus said to each of us ….. 7 If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. - John 15:7 (AMP)
Could it be that the demise of prayer in our lives and our churches is not directly attributed to some malady of prayer itself, but rather to the radical resizing of our God in which we have contributed or permitted to occur in our presence? Is not the predominance of the diminishing power of God through prayer directly attributable to our perpetual propensity toward pride?
Talking about prayer is not the same as praying. Praying in a self serving and self centered manner is not the same as abiding in Jesus and His words abiding in us! Jesus, please teach us to live and to abide in You such that it might be true in our hearts as it was in the heart of Elijah … “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives before whom I stand.”
When we stand consistently and persistently in the presence of our high and mighty and majestic God submitted and contrite desperate to hear and obey, we are without doubt standing in the place of the miraculous power of prayer, the place from which God will without reservation send His amazing prevailing fire.