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Praying When We Are Down

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Have you ever thought about what kind of people God uses for His glory? Many of them are just like us weak and sometimes failing. Someone once said, “The best of men are but men at their best.”

Let God’s power be with­drawn, even for a moment, and we immediately see that we are only earthen vessels—absolutely valueless and useless in ourselves. This is why the psalmist said, “Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psalm 39:5). Man left to himself is a failure. Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” John 15 “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” Who do we remember like this? Elijah! And this morning We should all be encouraged by Elijah. Remember James 5:17? James wrote that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.” Why? Because God says he had a nature like ours, “subject to like passions” homeopaths lit. of the same experience!

Look at Elijah in I Kings 18.

Part One: God sent rain to drought-stricken Judah in response to Elijah’s prayers that is 1 Kings 18:16-46.

Part Two: But within less than 24 hours we find Elijah despairing of life and asking the Lord to take him home in 19:1-4. Now how can a man who was unmoved by fear even before the 450 frenzied, false prophets, get so afraid? The answer is in the fact Elijah is smitten by the threats of one wicked and hard hearted woman named Jezebel. Although he was perhaps eighty years old at that time, Elijah “was afraid and arose and ran for his life” down to Beersheba (95 miles) and on into the wilderness.

What happened? Elijah falls from the sheer delight of being on a mountain top with God. Elijah plunges into deep depression. Welcome to an incredible lesson in serving our Lord!

Satan wants to discourage us. His method is simple. He points at our failures, our sins, our unresolved problems, our weaknesses, or even our poor health. Satan wants to show us whatever seems negative in our lives. If we will look at our sins and failures instead of rejoicing in Christ’s forgiveness and deliverance we begin to lose confidence in the love and care of our heavenly Father.

Someone has said, “The best of men are but men at their best.” God wants us to know this: Let God’s power be with­drawn, even for a moment, and one sees that people are only earthen vessels.

In order to give us lasting examples and instruction, God had recorded for us the experiences of these people. Paul told us this in 1 Corinthians 10:11‑13: “Now all these things happened unto them [the Israelites] for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Just because others fail we don’t need to fail. God has given us these examples so that we might be forewarned and forearmed, entrusting ourselves to His keep­ing and distrusting our own strength.

Noah, left to himself, got drunk[1]. Lot, left to himself, became carnal. Abraham, when he did not depend on God, lied concerning his wife. Moses forgot for a moment where his strength lay and became angry. Aaron failed to remem­ber that God had assigned different responsibilities to his servants; so he became jealous. Joshua became careless and hasty in his decision with regard to Ai and also the Gibeonites. David committed adultery and murder. Peter became self‑sufficient and denied his Lord. These things happen to us as soon as we, even for a short while, leave God out of our lives.

Apart from the brief ministry of His own Son, the history of God’s work on earth is the history of His using the unqualified. Even the twelve disciples who became apostles were no exception. From the human standpoint they had few characteristics or abilities that qualified them for leadership and service. Yet God used those men, just as He did Noah, Abraham, and the others, in marvelous ways to do His work[2].

So what do we need to learn about prayer when we like Elijah get down? Please follow along we stand and read I Kings 19:1-18.

What did Elijah learn while he was down?

  1. God needed to get Elijah’s attention. (19:1-2 Who was he paying attention to? God or that woman?)
  2. God needed to refocus Elijah’s life (19:3) away from problems and onto God!
  3. God needed to humble Elijah’s pride (19:4) he had thoughts that he was greater than those before him, that is pride!
  4. God needed to rest Elijah’s body (19:5). If we neglect our body it will pull down our spiritual life.
  5. God needed to touch Elijah’s life  (19.5,8)

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.

To added affliction He addeth His mercy;

To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

 

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,

His pow’r has no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

—Annie Johnson Flint

  1. God needed to feed Elijah supernaturally  (19:6-7)

God’s grace is special: The Apostle Paul closed Romans 11 with these words: “How fathomless the depths of God’s resources, wisdom, and knowledge! How unsearchable His decisions, and how mysterious His methods! For who has ever understood the thoughts of the Lord, or has ever been His adviser? Or who has ever advanced God anything to have Him pay him back? For from Him everything comes, through Him every­thing lives, and for Him everything exists. Glory to Him forever! Amen” (vv. 33‑36, Williams).

  1. God needed to strengthen Elijah physically (19:8)
  2. God needed to question Elijah personally (19:9-18)
  • Elijah learned he was living in the past tense v. 9-10
  • Elijah learned God isn’t only in the big things v. 11-12
  • Elijah learned God also uses small things v. 13-14
  • Elijah learned God has plans we aren’t even aware of v. 15-16
  • Elijah learned that God will deal with others disobediences v. 17
  • Elijah learned that God has other servants He is working with v. 18

The following song by Mary Slade pictures for us the blessings that become ours when we closely follow the Lord.

  Footsteps of Jesus

Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling “Come, follow Me!”

And we see where Thy footprints falling Lead us to Thee.

Tho they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains, Seeking His sheep, Or along by Siloam’s fountains Helping the weak:

If they lead thru the temple holy, Preaching the Word

Or in homes of the poor and lowly, Serving the Lord:

Then at last, when on high He sees us Our journey done,

We will rest where the steps of Jesus End at His throne.

Footprints of Jesus, That make the pathway glow!

We will follow the steps of Jesus Where’er they go.

-Mary Slade

Is there anymore we can learn? Yes, in the rest of the chapter there are 6 elements that make a powerful prayer life. Why don’t you sketch these in your copy of God’s Word?

Elijah’s Prayer life portrays trusting God’s word: (18:41) “Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

  • 1 Kings 17:1And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
  • 1 Kings 18:15Then Elijah said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today.”
  • 1 Kings 18:24“Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”

Elijah’s Prayer life portrays separating from the crowd: (18:42a) “And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel”

Elijah’s Prayer life portrays humbling before god: (18:42b) “then he bowed down on the ground”

  • Exodus 3:5-6Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”6 Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
  • James 4:6-8But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
  • 1 Peter 5:6-7Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
  • Revelation 1:17And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

Elijah’s Prayer life portrays seeking earnestly: (18:42c) “and put his face between his knees”

  • Deuteronomy 4:29“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • 2 Chronicles 16:9“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”
  • Isaiah 64:7And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities.
  • James 5:17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.

Elijah’s Prayer life portrays watching for God’s answer: (18:43) “and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.”

  • Matthew 7:7-11“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.9 “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?10 “Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
  • Luke 11:5-13And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;6 ‘for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;7 “and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?8 “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.10 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.11 “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?12 “Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
  • Luke 18:1-8Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.3 “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’4 “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,5 ‘yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ”6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said.7 “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?8 “I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Elijah’s Prayer life portrays seeing God’s answer: (18:44-46) “Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ ”45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel.46 Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”

Elijah was a man passionate and focused prayer. Remember others:

  • Jacob dislocated his body to straighten his soul inGenesis 32:22-32.
  • Hannah was so overcome in prayer Eli diagnosed her as impaired I Samuel 1:14-15.
  • Ezra mortified his body, tore his clothing and fell on his face before God inEzra 9:5-6.
  • Nehemiah wept as he cried out to God and was heardNehemiah 1:4.
  • Paul was willing to commit spiritual suicide for Israel inRomans 9:3 that they might be saved, that is passion.
  • Epaphras was willing to agonize in wrestling prayers 4:12.

If we were to distill these past two weeks of study in Elijah’s prayer closet, we would conclude there are Six Prayer Lessons from the Life of Elijah

  1. We like Elijah must be Trusting the God he could not see 1 Kings 17:2-7Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying,3 “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.4 “And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. NKJV
  2. We like Elijah must be Praying to the God who hears and responds. 1 Kings 18:36-37And 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 Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word.37 “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” NKJV
  3. We like Elijah must be obeying the god who does all things well. Mark 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” NKJV 1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. NKJV
  4. We like Elijah must be leaning on the one who never fails. 1 Corinthians 10:12Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. NKJVPhilippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.NKJV
  5. We like Elijah must be Forsaking the world we must not love.Hebrews 13:13-14Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. NKJV
  6. We like Elijah must be Living like God’s servants on the earthJames 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. NKJV

[1] M.R. DeHann, Elijah.

[2] MacArthur, John F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 10, (Chicago: Moody Press) 1983

 
 
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