I always thought Elijah was amazing. He took on single-handedly all the prophets of Baal. He poured water over his altar to up the excitement on the challenge. He made fun of the prophets of Baal when their god could not light the sacrifice on fire. And then, “Boom,” the fire of God consumed the whole thing, drenched in water and all. I remember my first message at a new church, “Where Is the God of Elijah?” I was just struck how we tend to reduce God to someone who is supposed to make sure our personal needs are being met. What about taking on the things that oppose God? I was interested in power encounters and putting God on display so that people would know that he was real.
Then James reduces all this down to simple prayer by ordinary human beings who trust in God. James’ read on Elijah was that he prayed that it would not rain in Israel and it did not rain for 3.5 years. Then he prayed again that it would rain, and it did. James reminds us that Elijah was an ordinary human being just like the rest of us. All he did was pray. His prayers caused the rain to stop for 3.5 years over an entire country and then caused them to start again when he prayed for them to resume. Just like that. His prayers caused God to hit the pause button on rain for 3.5 years over a nation and then caused him to hit the start button again. James attributes it all to prayer.
James puts all of this in the context of healing. If someone is sick, we should call the elders to lay hands on the person and pray for them to get well – pure and simple.
There is no need to make it complicated. It’s not about having the right words or the right formula. We can simply trust God to work on our behalf when we utter the prayer in faith. Years ago I read a little book by William Vaswig called “I Prayed, He Answered.” It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Sometimes the things we think we know about God get in the way of simple prayer.
I think there is something about our concern for another that unleashes something in the heart and power of God. When our concern is for another, God adds his power to our compassion. How often do we not read in the New Testament that Jesus had compassion on the people because they needed help. Out of that his ministry and his miracles flowed. It wasn’t about him and drawing attention to himself. It was about the needs of people who weren’t getting the help they so desperately needed.
Our anointing to intercede is directly related to the compassion that flows through us on behalf of another. We pray the simple prayer of faith and trust God to do the rest.
By Ralph Veenstra