The story of Honi reminds me of Elijah, an Old Testament prophet who prayed for rain. Elijah had bold faith and confidence in the Lord. James tells us: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 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. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:16b-18).
A little background here: The story of Elijah took place during a time in the nation of Israel when there was a wicked King on the throne named Ahab. Ahab and his wife Jezebel served the false god Baal and led the nation of Israel into sin, immorality, idolatry and rebellion against God. Because of their wickedness, the Lord sent the prophet Elijah to bring judgment upon Israel, and he caused there to be a drought in the land. For three and a half years, there was no rain, until Elijah prayed again, and then the rains returned.
Why was Elijah such a powerful prayer warrior? Was it because he was a prophet of God? If so, then we wouldn’t be able to expect to be able to pray like Elijah did. No, James said that Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours. In other words, he was as human as we are.
God didn’t answer Elijah’s prayer because he was a prophet, but because he was a child of God. James says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (NLT). Some of you reading that Scripture think, “Oh, that disqualifies me! I’m not righteous, so God won’t answer my prayers.” Well, wait a minute here. What does that word righteous mean? Does it mean that we do the right thing all the time? No. Let me explain.
The Bible tells us that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. When Jesus died on the Cross, He died as our substitute. When we believe in Jesus, God takes our sin and puts it on Jesus on the Cross, and takes His righteousness and credits it to our account as a free gift. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). If you are a Christian, someone who has trusted Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour and forgive your sins, then you have become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
In this passage, James also says that it is the earnest prayer of a righteous person that changes things. Earnest means serious in intention, purpose, or effort; sincerely zealous. Fervent prayer. Passionate prayer. Zealous prayer. Persevering prayer. Bold prayer. The prayer that prays until something happens, draws a line in the sand and doesn’t give up.
One of my favourite Old Testament stories is the story of Jacob where he was wrestling with God in prayer one night. The Lord said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Genesis 32:26). And guess what? God blessed him a new name and a new nature, all because he persevered in prayer. The Lord said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (v.28).
Why does God answer our prayers? Not because of any goodness in us, but because He is good. Our Heavenly Father is a good God who loves to give good gifts to His children.
I wish Christians believed what Jesus taught about prayer! Jesus said, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24). Nowadays people have twisted that Scripture around to say, “Ask and you might receive, maybe, you just never know what God’s going to do.” That’s not what the Bible says! Who are you going to believe – Jesus, or anyone else? He is the Truth and what He says is true. Jesus also said, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24). There is no question mark there – no doubt!
Why don’t we see more miracles than we do? Maybe “You do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2b). Ask, and then you receive. Seek and then you find. Knock and then the door is opened for you. God is good and He loves us, but He invites us to ask. So let’s get asking!
Pastor Chris Jordan