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Prayer

Elijah Prays For Rain – 4 Lessons in Prayer

Elijah was an Old Testament prophet called to contend for righteousness and faith in God. He lived amongst apostasy and evil, but he had unique experiences of the power of God. This was a witness to the people of Israel that the LORD alone is God. But Elijah was also an example to the early church, and to us, of a man of prayer. There are no lengthy prayers recorded – it is not his words that inspire us but the effectiveness of his prayers. As Elijah prays for rain on Mount Carmel there are four relevant prayer lessons for our lives today…

Background to Elijah Praying for Rain

Elijah’s ministry began with a call from God to deliver a message to the king of Israel. This was a word of judgment from the LORD. There would be no rain for the next few years except at God’s word.

King Ahab had rejected God as LORD and built a temple for Baal in Samaria. He was leading Israel into idol worship. Ahab had no regard for God’s word and publicly disregarded His law. He worshipped other gods, displayed greed and covetousness, and even sanctioned murder. This was the time and moral climate that Elijah lived in.

For three years of drought, Elijah was hidden by God out of the promised land. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah:

“Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land. So Elijah went…”

1 Kings 18:1-2

This meeting with Ahab culminated in a public confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. It was there that God demonstrated His power with a decisive victory over the prophets of Baal. The people of Israel were challenged by Elijah to stop wavering between two opinions and choose who they worshipped. They chose to recommit themselves to the LORD.

Then the prophets of Baal were taken down the mountain to the Kishon Valley and executed.

Elijah then dismissed the king and told him to leave the mountain area. He proclaimed to Ahab that there is the sound of heavy rain. Now that the people had realigned themselves to God there was the promise of the drought being broken.

Elijah had heard in his spirit the whisper that the covenant curse was about to be lifted. Ahab went to eat and drink, but Elijah prays for rain and he goes back up the mountain…

Elijah Prays For Rain on Mount Carmel

We are not told the words of Elijah’s prayer on the top of Mount Carmel. Only that he bowed down in prayer and sent his servant to scan the horizon. Elijah’s servant looked out to the Mediterranean Sea but could see nothing. Elijah prays for rain – and keeps on praying. He sent his servant back to look again, until finally on the seventh occasion the servant saw a small cloud:

“A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

1 Kings 18:44

That was enough, that was the sign that Elijah had been waiting for. He descended from the summit and urged Ahab to leave with his chariot before the rain stopped him.

It was about sixteen miles back to Jezreel and as the wind rose and the rain fell, Ahab rode off. Elijah, energized with supernatural strength, ran ahead of Ahab and his chariot back to Jezreel. This created a powerful image of the presence of God going ahead of Ahab in His prophet Elijah. But also the presence of God following behind Ahab in the storm clouds, the power of His creation!

A picture of a woman sitting alone at a table with her head bowed in prayer and the text '4 prayer lessons from Elijah.'
Elijah Prays For Rain – 4 Lessons in Prayer

4 Lessons in Prayer As Elijah Prays For Rain

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

James 5:16-18

There is no doubt in Scripture, that Elijah was an example to the people of his time, to the early church, and to us, of a man who was powerful, and effective, in prayer.

So often we look at the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel and focus on the fire falling on the altar. This was a supernatural demonstration of God’s authority, turning the hearts of the people back to God. A decisive victory! But we may overlook the importance of the hidden work. What lessons can we learn as Elijah prays for rain on the top of Mount Carmel?

Pray in Private

How did Elijah pray?

When the battle was over and most of the people had gone down the mountain, Elijah turned round and climbed back up to the top seeking a place of prayer. Even though he had just seen a dramatic public demonstration of God’s power, Elijah now needed to find a private place of prayer.

Elijah needed a space away from everyone, to reach out and connect with God, a private place. Spiritually he had heard the sound of rain. But now Elijah prays for rain, to see the reality of the drought being broken in Israel.

Sometimes we need to battle in prayer for our family, friends, and even our nation. The first lesson in how to pray like Elijah is to recognize the importance of having a space, a place to pray without any other distractions.

This is something that Jesus demonstrated by withdrawing from the crowds, and leaving His disciples, to go to the mountains to pray on His own. In His teaching on prayer, Jesus emphasized the importance of private prayer. God will honor the time that we spend where He alone sees and hears our prayers.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6

Posture of Humility

How to pray like Elijah?

Alone with God, Elijah prays for rain from a posture of humility. He kneeled with his face to the ground. Elijah had seen God demonstrate His power and authority for the honor of His name. But now he was appealing for God’s grace, to bless the people, and for the drought to be broken.

In this private place, with a posture of true humility, Elijah prayed. He asked God to honor His word and to fulfill His promise. This encounter had started at God’s command and with a promise. Elijah was to go and present himself to the king – and then God would send rain on the land.

Elijah was in a position of total surrender. And there was nothing more that he could do but pray and wait on God.

There is a time for drawing near to God in total surrender knowing that we are at the end of ourselves. When there is nothing more that we can say or do, and we are relying on God. This creates a space for God to move and do what only He can do!

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…”

Psalm 37:5-7

Persevere in Prayer

How Many Times Did Elijah Pray for Rain?

As Elijah prays for rain, he was persistent in prayer, even though he was praying a promise of God. He kept on praying until there was visible evidence that his prayer had been answered. Elijah had his face toward the ground so that nothing distracted him, and he kept his focus.

He sent his servant to look out to sea for any change in the weather conditions. But Elijah was not deterred even when his servant returned and said, “There is nothing there”. Nothing is happening, nothing is changing – I wonder how often we hear those words?

Seven times Elijah told his servant to, ‘Go back’ and look again.

Seven is the number that is symbolic of completeness in Scripture. By the seventh day God had finished His work of creation, it was complete, and He rested. Jesus used the number seven in describing how often we should forgive one another. His answer was seventy times seven, to keep on forgiving until forgiveness is complete.

I believe Elijah prayed until the work of prayer was complete and done. Until he knew that God had answered, the drought was broken, and rain was on its way!

Persistent prayer means simply praying until we know that our prayer has been answered. Until we see or sense in our spirit that there has been a breakthrough. How many times to pray, or even how long to wait, is not the question. We wait until we sense, or hear, or see, the answer.

You might also like to read: Still Waiting – What Is The Meaning of Psalm 13?

Proclaim God’s Promises

Elijah prays for rain until his prayer is answered! He saw that first sign of a small rain cloud and in faith believed that God would provide. He did not wait until the rain came but straight away proclaimed God’s provision to the king.

The ground would have been hard and dry after over three years without rain and there wasn’t just a shower on the way but a deluge! Elijah sent word to Ahab to get his chariot off the mountain before the rain stopped him.

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

1 Kings 18:45

Sometimes we are called to step out in faith, trusting in the promises of God, and proclaim His provision! There are so many examples in Scripture of those who stepped out in faith believing that God would accomplish what He had promised.

Abraham walked up Mount Moriah with Isaac, confident in God’s promise to Him. He knew Jehovah Jireh, that God would provide the offering!

Caleb was confident that the people of Israel could take Canaan. This was because God had promised this land to them.

Deborah was able to lead Israel into battle because God had promised to give Sisera the commander of the opposing army into their hands.

Jehoshaphat was able to lead out an army of singers to face a vast opposing force because God had promised the battle belonged to Him. Israel would not have to fight, for God was with them! (2 Chronicles 20:15-17 Bible Gateway)

We are able to proclaim God’s promises to us, fulfilled in Christ Jesus, over our lives. This enables and empowers us to pray with confidence in the faithfulness of God!

Related Post: God’s supernatural provision at the beginning of Elijah’s ministry, Elijah at the Kerith Ravine

2 thoughts on “Elijah Prays For Rain – 4 Lessons in Prayer”

  1. This is so true! We live in a world who wants instant gratification. It is only when we are patient before the Lord that will will see our prayers answered! Elijah was a great example of faith amongst the people. Thanks for the great post.

    1. Thank you – I love the fact that Elijah is a witness to us as a man of prayer, by his actions rather than his words! And yes, patience and persistence are not always easy lessons…

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