Ernest Prayer

Scripture: James 5:17-18

 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 earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

Introduction

The Jews had made Elijah more than man, he was a semi-divine or a demi-god. They admired him so much, they gave him god status. When Jesus prayed from the cross, Eli, Eli, some of the Jews thought that Jesus was actually calling for Elijah to save Him. James want his Jewish readers to face reality. Elijah was just a man, not God. Yet Elijah prayed and the rain stopped, he prayed again and the rain came down. He also called down fire from heaven on four separate occasions. Elijah was human but he was also a powerful intercessor.

The key word in the Greek is energeō which is used twice and this is most evident in the ESV…great power and working is the same Greek word energeō. I highlighted energeō in the verses below so you can see what I am talking about.

  • AV–The effectual fervent [energetic]  prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
  • NRSV–The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.
  • NASB–The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
  • NLT–The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
  • NIV–The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
  • GNT–The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect.
  • NCV–When a believing person prays, great things happen
  • ESV–The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
  • Barclay–The prayer of a good man, when it is set to work, is very powerful.
  • JEV–The prayer of an obedient follower, when it is set in motion, is very powerful.

TRANSITION

In order to help us cover the material but not repeat ourselves; we are going to use an out line: Elijah Prayed…He prayed PassionatelyPersistently, and Powerfully.

I. FIRST: ELIJAH PRAYED PASSIONATELY

James has just reminded us in verse 15: The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much and then is verse 17 he says “Elijah prayed earnestly.” I have struggled to get my mind around this concept. I have wondered if it were even possible for me to pray earnestly. As I illustrated with multiple translation, James 5:17 is not easy to translate.

Tasker says: a righteous man’s prayers differ from the prayers of others, by virtue of their earnestness and their fervency. So Tasker is indicating that the word energeō can suggest earnestness and fervency and I can see this, it not a stretch theologically. Energetic things bounce, move, stir, generate, create heat, etc. Earnestness is showing serious intention, showing depth and sincerity of feeling. I guess you could say, “It is high energy originating from the heart.” Some translate it “Heart felt”.

Fervency is warmth or intensity of feeling; ardor; zeal; or fervor. I think what James is saying is: There is a lot of power {energeō} in the energetic, heart-felt, prayer of a righteous man. The word ‘righteous’ is dikaios which means righteousness coming from obedience to God’s law. The opposite of transgression. So you could say, There is a lot of power {energeō} in the energetic, heart-felt, prayer of a person following Jesus.

II. ELIJAH PRAYED PERSISTENTLY

 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 earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

Elijah was a man of prayer; he did not pray occasionally, he prayed continually. Paul challenged the Thessalonians in verse 5:17 of his first epistle, “Pray without ceasing.” The NIV reads “Pray continually.” The Holman reads, “Pray constantly.”

Now Elijah, who was from Tish-be in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” Some point out that this is a prophecy not a prayer but I submit that prophecy is inspired by prayer. We know he prayed only once on Mount Carmel…“O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”
After the confrontation with the false prophets, Elijah prayed again. Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his kneesSeven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”
So Elijah prayed and he prayed again. The key to a powerful prayer life is to make prayer a habit. Pray continually without ceasing.

III. ELIJAH PRAYED POWERFULLY

James 5:18…Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. Elijah’s prayers were productive, they brought about a result and sometimes it was immediate, sometimes not.

We can covet practically anything for the wrong reason. I remember in my early days praying for the LORD to make me a soul winner. Looking back, I am 99.9% sure that my motives were selfish. I wasn’t wanting to win souls for souls sake or for Christ sake: I wanted to do it for Jack’s sake and glory. I am quite certain that our Heavenly Father is not going to make you powerful in prayer by your asking.

I would like to be able to call down fire from heaven. I don’t necessarily want God to consume my enemies on my command but it would be nice to scare the hades out of them. God is not going to make us powerful in prayer until we reach a state where He can trust us with that kind of awesome power. Many agree that prayer is the greatest energy source in the universe. I happen to be a member of this group.

Prayer must become a Passion before it can become a Power. It has to be a persistent practice before it can become a potent power.

[This sermon is unfinished and unedited. Actually all my sermons are unedited as you no doubt have discovered.]

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