Bible Ballistics: Got Any Time??? Maybe Today??? Vol. 7#02
We have spent time giving thanks to God during this season of “Thanksgiving” and now as a time of giving and receiving of gifts approaches, I thought it would be a good ‘time’ to talk about “time”! We often get so busy that we forget the purpose of the season we are celebrating. And more than that we have become a people who live in a constant state of “rushing” about for various reasons; too busy to stop our hectic schedule and “make” time for God in any meaningful way. And believe me my friends, if we don’t “make time” for God, we’ll never “find time” for Him—ever!
James talks about the prayer life of a “righteous man” and I’d like us to consider some things about that man today. Does prayer have anything to do with time for God?
“Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another,
that ye may be healed.
The effectual fervent prayer
of a righteous man
availeth much.” James 5: 16
James, talking to believers, calls us to be accountable; by confessing our faults one to another and praying for each other in general and for the healing of our infirmities. In other words, we are to care for one another selflessly, and one of the best ways to do that is to “pray” for one another. But James reveals that there is more to prayer than we often consider, that there are some prerequisites to be effective “pray-ers”!
First of all prayer is to be “effectual”—
Successful in producing a desired result.
We are to pray expecting results. But what are the results that we are to expect? (We’ll look at that just a bit later.) We are also to be “fervent” in prayer—
Having or displaying a passionate intensity.
While we are to expect results as we pray in faith, we are also to persevere–to keep on keeping on, as we wait and listen for God’s answers. I am not talking about the “slot machine in the sky” kind of praying—where one drops in a quick minute prayer and expects to hit the “jackpot”, but the kind of prayer that pleases God; the kind of prayer that Jesus talked about:
“And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29
Jesus also described the intensity and hard work of praying in scripture:
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.” Luke 18:1-5
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
We are called to persevere in prayer—to “pray, and not to faint” because prayer can be hard work (Paul said to “pray without ceasing”), not because God is “weary” of us, but because HE is sovereign, and trusting HIM means trusting HIM to answer in His perfect will, in His perfect timing, in a way that brings glory to Him, and a growing faith, confidence and usefulness in us. Our praying should have an intensity and devotion that is seeking to know God and to express a heart of compassion toward others. And that also includes the need to also to keep on keeping on! When we check, we find that the grammatical tense of “ask…seek….and knock” in Matthew 7, expresses continual action; we are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. As we said earlier, prayer isn’t dropping your coin in the “slot” and expecting God to meet your demands, but real “effectual fervent” prayer is seeking the heart of God with all of my heart, mind and soul; it is seeking to know God more, to do His will, reflecting His character and love to the world.
Looking back to our passage from James, we find that he gives us an example of the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. He mentions Elijah/Elias as an example of this kind of pray-er:
“17 Elias was
subject to like passions as we are,
and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain:
and it rained not on the earth
by the space of three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again,
and the heaven gave rain,
and the earth brought forth her fruit.” James 5:17-18
Let’s examine this claim: Elijah prayed for it NOT to rain, and it didn’t for 3½ years. He prayed again that it WOULD rain, and it did. Yet, James says that Elijah was a “man”, that he had passions and desires just like us, but when he prayed God heard and answered. What created this kind of prayer warrior? The very real key to understanding what effectual, fervent prayer is all about begins with understanding what a “righteous” man is. This is not a reference to our goodness but to the “righteousness” of God, righteousness which only Jesus can and does impart to those who will believe and meet HIM at Calvary in repentance and faith in HIS death, burial and resurrection for the remission of sin.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Prayer is always grounded in a relationship with God—the relationship of children with their father, and the children aren’t to tell the Father what to do!!! Really? Instead the “little children” that Jesus spoke of us becoming, were “little children” seeking to be close to and please the Father—to know His favor. That’s one reason Jesus told us we are to pray:
“…Thy kingdom come….
“..Thy will be done…..”
“on earth as it is in heaven….”
God’s will NOT mine!!! But there’s more. How do we really pray an “effectual, fervent prayer”? I believe that it requires that we:
devote ourselves to seeking the face of God—
devote ourselves to finding out the will of God—
devote ourselves to obeying the will of God.
We must live seeking God’s will, asking for His direction and continually knocking on the doors of heaven. That they would open and pour out God’s power and strength on His own, that we can change the world for Jesus. A life lived seeking God’s face, His purposes and His ways, and then walking in that which HE speaks, reveals and teaches us through prayer and the study of HIS Word.
James tells us that Elijah was just like us—a man of flesh and blood. What made Elijah’s prayers so effective? It wasn’t a magic formula; it wasn’t a flippant use of prayer to accomplish what Elijah wanted. Let’s let scripture tell us about Elijah and his prayer life.
“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab,
As the Lord God of Israel liveth,
before whom I stand,
there shall not be dew
nor rain these years,
but according to my word.” 1 Kings 17:1
Look at Elijah’s prayer…. It was prayed in the confidence of God, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth”. We are to pray seeking God’s face and His glory that we might reflect HIS glory to a lost and dying world. And believe me, Ahab was not only one of the most wicked of men, but one of the most wicked kings that Israel ever had (remember his wife was Jezebel). Our focus in life and prayer is to be on God:
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. 5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:3-5
Our confidence in prayer is to be on seeking and knowing GOD, not on getting our own way!! We are to “trust” God, to “delight” in God, to “commit” to God, and wait and watch for God’s work. That’s not “dictation” but “dedication”– seeking God’s face, asking for HIS will and knocking until HE opens (or closes) the door. Being so devoted to the God we love, that we will allow HIM to be God in our lives so that we can reflect His glory and power to the world we live in—and they are looking for real, genuine and faithful men and women of God.
Elijah is a perfect example! Did Elijah act presumptuously? No! He declared to Ahab (one of the most wicked kings of Israel) that it wouldn’t rain, and it came to pass. But in God’s time he went back to Ahab with a new message:
“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.” 1 Kings 18:1
Did you catch that? GOD sent Elijah and said “I will send rain upon the earth”! And we must remember that this was a most harrowing command to Elijah, because Ahab virtually had a reward out for Elijah—he was looking to hold Elijah accountable for his prophecy (and that meant death). But why did Elijah prophesy a drought for 3½ years?
“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: 32 And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. 34 And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. 35 And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. 36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near,
Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel,
let it be known this day
that thou art God in Israel,
and that I am thy servant,
and that I have done all these things
at thy word.
37 Hear me, O Lord,
that this people may know
that thou art the Lord God,
and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell,
and consumed the burnt sacrifice,
and the wood,
and the stones,
and the dust,
and licked up the water that was in the trench.” 1 Kings 18:30-38
What a testimony—God’s people had been led into idolatry, and Elijah was the prophet of the Lord—doing the will of The Lord God Almighty of Israel. He was righteous because He believed in God, His Word and His promises. But let’s not miss the answer to our question, “Why did Elijah prophecy a drought”? Look at Elijah’s prayer from verse 36:
“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel,
let it be known this day
that thou art God in Israel,
and that I am thy servant,
and that I have done all these things
at thy word.” AMEN!!!
Do you see the principles? Elijah was God’s servant—he had received the grace of God by his faith, and his faith produced a heart of obedience. He believed God, he followed God, he obeyed God and he walked with God and gave out God’s Word/Words to the people. He prayed in obedience to God’s command to him!
So what’s my point in all of this? Elijah, the example that James used of the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man” which, he said, “availeth much”, didn’t presume on God. His prayer was in direct obedience to the Lord’s command! I am firmly convinced that true and earnest prayer is always initiated by God, by His Holy Spirit who dwells within those who belong to Jesus.
So, how are we praying? In the flesh or in the spirit? Do we have time to draw near to God, so that “HE will draw near to you”? Or are we so preoccupied with the draw of the world that we have no time for God? What do we have time for? Many have time to ‘say’ I’ll pray, but how many really take time to pray? How many are walking with God in an intimate relationship of love and obedience? How many are just saying what others want to hear? How many are living in open, blatant, rebellion to God’s direct and clear revelations and commands in the Word of God? How many are disobeying the very God they claim to serve and refuse to repent and obey? You? Me? Oh God please search and cleanse us.
“Search me, O God,
and know my heart:
and know my thoughts:
24 And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
May we each examine our devotion to God today? What demands and diversions are keeping you from God? As I examine my own heart and seek to draw near to the Father, I pray that you will join me in seeking to be the “salt” and “light” to the world by drawing near to our God. May we be like Elijah and be the “servants” of God, and share His truth with the world. May we call others to repentance appropriately? May we speak the truth in love to those whom God places in our path? How much time do you have for God? For HIS Word? For the world? May we be found devoted and faithful? May we truly be wise stewards of our time and resources? Take ‘time’ today? We may not have tomorrow!