Sunday Sermon: ‘Elijah – A Man’s Prayers That Changed a Nation’

Standard

audio

Currently many of us are traveling together on a 40 Day Prayer Journey. I have been greatly encouraged by the number of you who have shared with me how you are praying each day. Yesterday someone shared with me how they are using this to gather together as a family and pray. I can assure you that I am praying as well. I have prayed for myself and my family. I have prayed for many of you as well.

I have prayed for our homes to grow stronger and for families to come closer together. I have prayed for our loved ones to be saved. I have prayed for the rededication of wayward Christians. I have prayed for those who are sick and suffering. I have prayed for those who are struggling financially. I have prayed for God’s guidance of our church. I have prayed for our Sunday School teachers and for our various ministries. I have prayed for God’s leadership in the preparation and preaching of my messages and in our music. I have prayed for His guidance and wisdom concerning our need to build a new multi-purpose building.

I have prayed that prayer would not be a burden for us, but instead that it would become a delight. I have prayed that we would experience God’s presence in our prayers and that our prayer lives would become so wonderful that we could not help but to pray even more.

I have prayed extensively for our country and this upcoming election. I have prayed that God would help America to turn from sin and back to Him. I have prayed for a great spiritual awakening to sweep across our land and for those in our homes, schools, business and government to be saved. I have prayed the future of our children and grandchildren and the world they will have to live in.

I have had regular appointed times of prayer and I have paused often along the way and prayed spontaneously whenever the Lord put something on my heart. I have tried to take each step of this journey with God. I have taken John Bunyan’s quote to heart-

“You can do more than pray, after you have prayed,
but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

There is a lot that needs to be done and that can be done, but before we attempt to do anything, we need to pause and to pray and to ask for God’s help and guidance.

One of the things I have prayed for the most this week is the Spirit’s guidance in the message I should preach today. As one of our prayer studies said this week – “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” I have pleaded with the Holy Spirit to lead me in the direction I should go. I have asked Him to give me His message for this moment. As I have prayed, I have felt led to a passage from the book of James-

James 5:17 Elias was a man 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.

What is this passage of scripture about and how does it pertain to us today?

I. Elijah and His People

Who was Elijah? Elijah lived several hundred years before the birth of Christ. He was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the time of wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Perhaps there was no darker day for the nation Israel than during the time when God called Elijah. Yet the Lord had a special plan for how he wanted to use this mighty man of God.

1 Kings 17:1 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.

Centuries before God had told His people-

Deuteronomy 11:13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. 15  And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.

God promised Israel that if they would serve Him, He would bless them. But then He also warned them –

16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; 17 And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit;

If they served Him, He would bless them. If they turned their back on Him, He would punish them. It’s that simple.

Much like America today, Israel didn’t take God’s warnings seriously and continued to sin. Repeatedly God tried to warn them, yet they refused to listen. Finally the day came when God sent His promised judgment. God told Elijah to tell them that it would not rain for 3 ½ years. Think about that for a moment. If it did not rain today for the next 3 ½ years – that would mean that our next shower would come in May of 2016. Think of how such a drought would devastate the  land. Why would God do something so drastic?

God did this to cause the nation of Israel to turn back to Him. It’s unfortunate but it often takes a tragedy to get some people’s attention. Some will not listen even then. The Bible tells us that God will resist the proud, but give grace unto the humble. Oftentimes God has to break us before He can bless us. That is true of individuals and of nations. God humbled His people with great tragedies, but He did so that they might ultimately turn from this sins and become a nation that He could bless.

The Bible says that after His appointed time of chastening –

1 Kings 18:1 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.

3 ½ years had passed since the drought had first began and now it was time to determine if Israel was ready to follow God. God sent Elijah to Ahab and Jezebel to challenge them to bring their prophets to Mt. Carmel for a showdown. The challenge was for both Elijah and the false prophets to each build an altar and to place an animal sacrifice upon their altar. Then they were to pray to their god (God) and ask him to send fire so that the people might know who was the one true God – “Jehovah or Baal?”

The false prophets built their altar and then put their sacrifice upon it. Then they began to pray and plead with Baal to send fire. From morning till noon they prayed, but no fire fell. Elijah mocked them and told them perhaps Baal was asleep and that they needed to shout a little louder. The Bible says that they began to cry out and to cut themselves with knives, yet the sky stood silent. They continued to do this until it was evening, but still no fire fell. Baal was not the one true God. There is only one God and His name is Jehovah.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. As Elijah stood before the people, he asked them-

1 Kings 18:21 …How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.

Elijah’s challenge was much like Joshua’s challenge to the people of his day –

Joshua 24:15  …choose you this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

America cannot have a multiplicity of gods and be blessed. We can’t ‘COEXIST’ as the bumper sticker says and find the favor of God. We must choose whom we will serve.

1 Kings 18:30 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 , and said , 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, hear me, 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.  

Through this sacrifice Elijah proved to the people of Israel that there was only one hope for them. There is only one hope because there is only one God. That was true for Israel and it is true for America. What America needs most today is salvation. Our nation is acting godlessly because it is God-less. If we want to turn our nation around, we have to turn the people’s hearts to God. It is a proven fact that most people vote according to their convictions. Recently I read that almost 90% of evangelical Christians vote for the most conservative candidate. If we want America to become a more conservative, godly and moral nation – we have to change the people’s hearts so that they will choose that kind of leadership. It is impossible to make America godly without a real relationship with God.

Here is what the Bible tells us will be the trend during the last days. This is what will happen if the church continues to stay asleep.

2 Timothy 3:1 But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the form of religion but denying its power. CSB

They will be this way because this is what will be in their hearts. God-less people naturally act ungodly. What must the church do? Let us take seriously God’s Word.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove , rebuke , exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions , do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

“Stand strong and stay true”, Paul command young Timothy. It won’t be easy, but it is what our Lord demands of us. Elijah was such a man. There were times when Elijah felt like he was standing all alone, yet he stood faithful. He stood before his godless generation and prayed for fire to fall from heaven. God heard his prayer and answered.

Note the affect this had upon the people –

1 Kings 18:39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.

What we need today is more men and women who have the conviction of an Elijah. Will we build altars and call down physical fire from heaven? I doubt it. I’m not even sure we need to.

What we can do is call down revival from heaven. What happened on Mt. Carmel was not about physical fire consuming a sacrifice. It was about a spiritual fire consuming the hearts of men and women. Brethren, I am praying for that kind of fire to fall upon America. I am asking God to bring spiritual conviction upon those who are lost. I am asking God to awaken the church so that we will being to take seriously our responsibility to share the gospel. I am asking God to bring a spiritual awakening to America and I am asking God to use His church to help bring it. Will you join me? Perhaps you are thinking, “I want to be that kind of person, but I can’t. I’m not special like Elijah?” Let me encourage you.

II. Elijah and His Passions

James 5:17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly …

Elijah was no super-hero. He wasn’t a part of the X-Men. Most likely he was a little rough around the edges.  The Bible says that he was a “hairy man with a leather belt around his waist.” (2 Kings 1:8) Most likely if he showed up in the average church this morning, many would give him a strange look and avoid him. Scripture tells us that he was as human as any of us and that he had his difficult times. We know that he went through a time of great discouragement. Yet he was a man of God. His name means – “My God is Yahweh / Jehovah.”

We don’t need people who are flashy. We don’t need people with a degree from Harvard. What we need is men and women of God, who truly believe in the power of prayer, and who will not give up in their praying until they see the hand of God move. Our nation needs salvation, and it needs godly people who have a passion for that salvation and who will labor in prayer for it.

There was a time when Elijah felt like he was all alone; yet there were 7,000 who hadn’t bowed their knee to Baal. I believe that there are a lot more than 7,000 God-fearing people in America. I believe that there are thousands of Christians whom God can use. I received a very encouraging email this week that there is a movement in America today called OneCry. Today there are thousands of believers across America who are crying out to God and pleading with Him to bring revival to the church and to transform our culture. Are you one of those individuals?

III. Elijah and His Prayers

What made Elijah such a powerful man of God? Consider what the Bible says –

James 5:17 Elias was a man 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 used Elijah as an example of what it means to be a person of passionate prayer. Just before these verses, James said-

James 5:16 …The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

I took time this week to break that verse down ‘word by word’ to try to determine its deeper meaning. It seems to me that James is sayings –

‘There is great power in the prayers of the person who is truly committed to God.’

There is great power in the prayers of the person who knows Jesus Christ as their Savior and who is committed to live a Christ-honoring life. There is great power in their prayers because God hears and answers their prayers.

It is a difficult truth that is sometimes hard to understand, but the Bible teaches us that God puts in the hearts of His people the need to pray, and then He responds to their prayers. Adrian Rogers used to say that – ‘The prayer that gets to heaven, is the prayer that starts in heaven.’

How does prayer work? Why can prayer be so powerful? It seems to me that God works through prayer in this way –

  • God begins by putting in the heart of His people the desire to do His will
  • The He waits for them to passionately want His will
  • Then He responds to their prayers by doing His will

 God could do His will  without our prayers, but our wanting of His will is a major portion of His will.

CONCLUSION

What is God’s will for America? I don’t know what the future holds for our country, but I can guarantee you that God’s will for us involves our prayers. Many of you are praying. Thank you. Don’t give up. Get stronger! Many of you need to start praying. There are still some of the prayer booklets at the resource table. In addition, I have put this prayer journal on my blog. You can simply click on the tab at the top of the page that says – DOWNLOAD PRAYER JOURNAL. Once you get to that page, you can click on the red words that says – 40 Days of Prayer.  It will come up as a PDF / Adobe file. I am praying that churches all across America will join Twin Oaks as we pray for God to bring revival.

Comments are closed.