“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17–18, ESV)
I knew a person once who was convinced that he would never amount to anything. Apparently, his parents sent subliminal messages throughout his childhood that created an inferiority complex. Unfortunately, he never tried to push beyond the comfort zone of average. Many people today struggle with feelings of inferiority like this person did. This problem is also prevalent with many in the church.
In the church, there are believers who view certain others as “super-saints.” The “super-saints” are the ones who are prominent and seem to be able to accomplish great and mighty things for the Lord. Many believers will compare themselves to the “super-saints,” and feel inferior, as if they cannot accomplish much. This is far from the truth. It is especially far from the truth when it comes to the matter of prayer.
James gives his readers a message of hope to those who feel inferior by looking at a prophet named Elijah. One of the best sermons I ever heard was preached by a fellow elder some 36-years ago. I still remember the message. “Elijah was a man just like us.”
Now, when we think of Elijah, we think of a “super-saint.” Elijah served as a prophet during the reign of Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Ahab’s queen was named Jezebel. If you know anything about the Northern Kingdom, they were idolaters and the reign of Ahab and Jezebel was an evil one. Elijah is most noted for his contest against 450 false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He challenged them to bring fire from their god, Baal, on an altar. They tried all day long and they failed, their god did not bring fire down. After their failure, Elijah called on the Lord God to bring fire down on the altar he constructed. God sent fire which consumed the sacrifice, the stones, and everything on the alter that Elijah had previously drenched with water. Following this, he slaughtered the 450 prophets of Baal.
Elijah was certainly a “super-saint.” Yet, James tells us that he was a man just like us, with like passions and feelings. Elijah struggled just like us with human frailty and emotions. Following the contest with the prophets of Baal he prayed. (More on this in a minute.) Then he ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel. Then Jezebel sent a death threat to Elijah. Upon hearing this, Elijah, the “super-saint,” mighty man of God, ran for his life into the wilderness. After a day of running, he sat under a tree and asked the Lord, “take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4, ESV). Elijah, ran in fear, was physically exhausted, and ends up in an emotional state, believing that he has failed as a man of God. Later, God revitalized him and called on him to continue in his calling, which he did.
The episode of which James wrote had to do with a prayer before and after the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Before the contest, Elijah prayed that it would not rain and it did not for 3-years and 6-months. This brought about a severe famine in the land and it did not rain again until after the contest with the prophets of Baal, when Elijah prayed again for the rain to come.
The point of James’ message is that every believer has the capability to accomplish great things for the glory of God through prayer. We, just like Elijah are prone to weaknesses, emotional swings, and even failures. however, just like Elijah, we can also be the fervent effectual person of prayer that avails much. There is great power in prayer.