The Running Prophet

The Running Prophet

Elijah didn’t get his answer right away, the way God answered his prayer in 1 Kings 18:38. Yet he sticks with it, he doesn’t lose heart or give up when God’s answer is “No.” He keeps praying with patience and with perseverance, sending the servant back and back and back until he sees that little cloud like a man’s hand over the horizon. Like the persistent widow of Luke 18, we are to keep praying until God in His providence makes clear that the time for prayer has ceased.

The story of Elijah running before Ahab in 1 Kings 18:41–46 is a strange and spectacular portrayal of the power and victory of the one true God over Baal and of the humility and gospel ministry of God’s prophet. Yet if we focus our attention solely on Elijah’s girding up his loins and running the seventeen miles from Mount Carmel to Jezreel by the hand of Yahweh, we will miss Elijah’s running first to God in prayer, and thus we will fail to learn what the “man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17) has to teach us about prayer.

Recall that this story takes place immediately on the heels of the contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Yahweh had proven in a stunning manner that He is the only God of heaven and earth, and in so doing He had brought repentance to the idolatrous hearts of His rebellious people. The drought that Israel was suffering as a result of its idolatry could finally end, for that idolatry had been dealt with decisively by the execution of the prophets of Baal at the Brook Kishon. Yet the rains did not immediately fall, for God ordinarily sends His blessings through the channel of prayer. Thus Elijah, who had asked God to turn the spigots off three and a half years earlier, asked God to turn them back on. This is almost certainly the passage that James has in view when he says that Elijah prayed, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. As we watch Elijah pray, we learn much about how to pray.

We Should Pray with Confident Faith in the Promises of God.

Down at the bottom of Mount Carmel, at the Brook Kishon, Elijah told Ahab to go back up and eat and drink, “for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” Elijah wasn’t hearing literal thunder in the distance, for as we see in the following verses, there were no clouds in the sky. Rather, Elijah was hearing with the ears of faith in God’s promises. He knew that God had promised in verse 1, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon earth”(1 Kings 18:1). In light of God’s promises, he prayed.

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