There are many encouragements to pray from the examples set before us in the Bible. One leading example is that of Elijah, or Elias, as he is called in James 5:17-18. There we read the following:
‘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.’
Here we may note two things. First, the man who prayed and second, the power of his prayer.
Firstly, it was Elias who prayed. An Old Testament saint. A prophet of God. As we may see from his life, in the matters recorded in Scripture, he was one whom God cared for. In time of famine the LORD provided for him, be it by the brook Cherith or via the hospitality of the poor widow woman. We may be ready to say, no wonder the prayers of so godly a man, so singular a figure, were heard. But how is he set forth in the passage above? ‘Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are…’ he was a man, subject to becoming discouraged and at times afraid. Thomas Manton comments: “Well then, God’s children, that travail under the burden of infirmities, may take comfort; such conflicts are not inconsistent with faith and piety: other believers are thus exercised, none ever went to heaven but there was some work for his ‘faith and patience’ (Manton on The General Epistle of James p.467 Banner of Truth Trust)
Secondly, note the power of his prayer. He prayed earnestly. He prayed from the heart. His petitions were sincere. Here, he is an example to us. By God’s grace he prayed earnestly and such prayers were heard. Prayer closed and opened heaven to rain in his case. What a mighty power! Matthew Henry writes, “This instance of the extraordinary efficacy of prayer is recorded for encouragement even to ordinary Christians to be instant and earnest in prayer. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”
So, in regard to the devastating bush fires in Australia, may we be strengthened in faith to pray for rain, which is so badly needed. In verse 16 we read, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And Manton makes a good point in writing, “Prayer is a good remedy in the most desperate cases, and when you are lost to all other hopes, you are not lost to the hopes of prayer.” (Manton on The General Epistle of James p.471).
So too, in the New Year, and New Decade, may we be given grace to pray to the Hearer of prayer, through the Mediator Jesus Christ, having confidence of being heard in the matters we bring before Him, through Christ.
As the Saviour said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
G B Macdonald