Today, let’s ask ourselves: How sincere are we in our prayers? Even Elijah, who had the power of prayer, didn’t get immediate answers to his requests. Nevertheless, he persisted and prayed fervently, even in moments of despair. He kept on praying until he saw a glimmer of hope.
As we observe Lent this year, we reflect on the Word of God with the theme of ‘Little Things.’ Within this theme, I want to share a message with you about hope. Even if our hope seems small, if it comes from God, it will certainly become a reality through Him.
Elijah prayed to God for rain on the arid land of Mount Carmel for three and a half years, but he got no response. He prayed again, but still no answer. He prayed a third time with all his heart, gazing up at the sky, but there was no sign of rain. Despite this, he didn’t lose hope and continued to pray even more earnestly several times.
If he had given up after praying six times, no one would blame him. But he didn’t stop praying. Finally, a small patch of cloud the size of a palm appeared in the sky. When Elijah saw it, he told the king that a great rain was coming. That little patch of cloud eventually covered the entire nation of Israel, and soon enough, rain poured down, ending the drought that had lasted three and a half years.
Even a cloud big enough to cover the Mediterranean Sea would not have been sufficient to end the drought throughout all of Israel. So, what hope could a tiny piece of cloud, the size of a handhold, bring? But that small glimmer of hope became a reality.
How can we bring our hopes to fruition and receive blessings? Elijah’s approach to prayer offers insight into this question. The Bible provides a detailed account of Elijah’s prayer posture – he knelt and bent down on the ground. This humble posture demonstrated his recognition of being a servant of God and his willingness to submit to God’s will. Such an attitude of humility is the first step towards hearing God’s voice and experiencing His blessings.
The humble attitude before God was not only maintained by Elijah but also by Samuel. In 1 Samuel 3, a young Samuel appeared. One night, God called out to Samuel, saying “Samuel! Samuel!” However, Samuel did not recognize that the voice was from God. He misunderstood and thought that Eli, an older priest who was with him, had called him. Samuel went to Eli three times before Eli realized that God was calling Samuel. Eli instructed Samuel to respond with “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” the next time he heard the voice. Samuel followed Eli’s advice, and after that, he heard God’s voice clearly and began communicating with Him.
As we declare to God, “I am your servant,” we express our willingness to obey Him. It shows God that we are ready to heed His every command. Elijah’s teachings emphasize the significance of developing this mindset through prayer. By adopting a humble and prayerful attitude, we can cultivate a strong willingness to serve and obey God’s will.
Let’s take a closer look at how Elijah began his prayer. In 1 Kings 18:41, Elijah instructed Ahab to eat and drink, for he had heard the sound of heavy rain. Although Samuel also heard the sound, the king and the thousands of people present did not. This sound was specifically intended for Elijah and came directly from God. Elijah humbled himself and focused intently on this sound, listening solely for the voice of God.
There are many believers around us who possess the spiritual strength to overcome any trial that comes their way, and this strength is derived from their commitment to prayer. Even if God’s promise to them has yet to be fulfilled, they continue to pray and maintain their faith in Him. As Jesus stated in John 14:21, God reveals Himself to those who demonstrate their willingness to obey Him and follow His teachings. By doing so, we can experience the presence of Jesus’ perfect love in our lives.
Elijah’s prayerful attitude can teach us another important lesson. The posture of him kneeling on the ground shows his strong commitment to blocking out all other sounds and focusing solely on God’s Word. It’s worth noting that Elijah was not in a peaceful or quiet environment – thousands of people were gathered around him, and the king was feasting and making merry. Despite all the noise and distractions, Elijah made a conscious decision to dedicate himself fully to God’s presence.
Achieving a high level of concentration is crucial when it comes to prayer. I’ve spoken with many devout individuals about their prayer practices, and some of them have shared that they pray while going about their daily activities. For instance, some truck drivers have told me that they pray as if they are having a conversation with God while on the road, which is truly remarkable. However, if we limit ourselves to prayer like that, we won’t be able to enter a state of deep prayer. It’s essential to concentrate fully when we pray, setting aside time to focus solely on God without any distractions. This is true for all of God’s people, not just pastors or other leaders. God expects each of His children to cultivate a prayerful life that is centered on Him.
God desires people who pray with the same devotion as Elijah. Even when there are numerous distractions and noises around us, we must possess the ability to discern God’s will in them. This discernment can only be acquired through cultivating a deep and meaningful prayer life. We all long to hear God’s voice and gain insight into His will. Prayer should not be viewed as a struggle to accomplish our own desires, but rather as an earnest effort to understand where God is leading us. When we seek to know what God truly wants from us, He will reveal the way to us with utmost clarity. It is along this path that we find true life and hope.
Lastly, Elijah’s prayer posture teaches us the significance of self-denial. Specifically, the phrase “between his knees” is noteworthy. Elijah prayed with his head lowered between his knees, resulting in his knees being naturally spread apart. This posture of splayed knees evokes imagery of a sacrifice being split in two, which serves as a powerful symbol of self-denial.
In Genesis 15:8-21, God commands Abraham to offer a sacrifice and provides him with a very specific and detailed explanation of how to do so. In accordance with God’s instructions, Abraham cuts the bodies of the animals to be sacrificed in two. Once the sacrifice is placed on the altar, God’s fire passes through it.
The practice of cutting animals in two for sacrifice was commonly used in the ancient Near East when making a covenant, as described in Jeremiah 34:18-19. However, the covenant itself represents a promise to live a holy life. In Hebrew, the word for ‘holy’ is ‘Kadesh,’ which means to cut off and separate.
Here, the image of an animal split in two represents the concept of self-denial. When we make a covenant with God, we declare that we will live according to His instructions, reject evil, and strive to live a life of goodness guided by His teachings. Prayer is a declaration of our commitment to fight against evil, and it provides us with time to firmly establish our will to pursue God’s truth, goodness, and love. The passing of the fire over the sacrifice symbolizes God’s promise that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on our faithful attitude.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let me bring this sermon to a close. Today, we talked about how Elijah heard the good news and saw hope. Through his prayer, he deeply reflected on the good news, and when he saw a small cloud in the sky, he saw evidence of God’s promise.
To us, the cloud is a symbol of Jesus’ return (Luke 21:27-28, Matthew 24:30-31, Dan 7:13-14, Revelation 1:7), and it represents the grace given to believers. As we hold onto the gospel and pray, we too can find hope in our lives.
I can hear the Holy Spirit pouring down on our dry and thirsty souls. Can you hear it too? Let us open our hearts to the gospel and pray with the will to obey God, just as Elijah did. Let’s spend time in deep prayer with God alone and pray in the Holy Spirit until our hearts reject anything that goes against God’s thoughts, heart, and teachings. May the presence of Christ be with you always.
Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 26, 1 kings 18:41-46
Pastor John Kim, Lakeridge Lutheran Church