The trends of our society and churches can be disconcerting for those who love the LORD deeply. In our society there is an increasing rush to embrace immoral practices. Not only are people choosing individually to break the laws of God but they applaud those who participate in them and attack those who stand against them.
It seems that for the most part, the fear of God has left our nation.
The church is the salt and light of the world. At times and places the church is fulfilling its calling. There are bright lights in the darkness, yet far too often we have a form of godliness without power. Too many of God’s people are just going through the motions. The enticements of the world have left the Bride of Christ with “wandering eyes.” Our bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ is not the total focus of our love. Among the clergy there is often a prideful self-sufficiency. I sense from pastors an “I’ve got what it takes” attitude. Confident in their abilities and training, their ministries often lack a heartfelt crying out to God for his power to be demonstrated and purposes fulfilled. This results in well managed but plateaued churches. In many places the kingdom isn’t advancing. These churches are well managed, orderly and planned but the power of God seems missing.
The question is, how does God respond when times of spiritual darkness fall upon a nation. The answer of the Bible seems to be — He raises up people who can pray. This certainly was the case in the story of Elijah.
Elijah was God’s man in a very dark time. The leaders of Israel, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel were drawing the nation into idolatry through the worship of the God Baal. They wanted Baal worship to be the national religion. Baal worship was an immoral and inhumane religion. Worship included temple prostitution and human sacrifice (see Numbers 25:1-4 and Jeremiah 19:5). It was a demonically inspired attempt to take God’s people away from the living God and their designed purpose to bring Christ into the world. It seems that many the Israelis were going along with this demonic enterprise, to the extent that Elijah felt completely alone (1 Kings 18:22).
There are a number of remarkable features we see in the man Elijah. His incredible boldness, unquestioning faith and yet his vulnerableness to deep discouragement. However James, the new testament writer draws out a key feature of the great prophet, his ability to pray. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain…Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain…” James 5:17,18. James mentions two great prayers of Elijah. There are others that could be mentioned, the raising of a dead child and praying fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice (1 Kings 17:22;18:37,38) were also answers to prayer. In the time of spiritual darkness, God raised up a man that could pray.
We certainly can take heart in the story of Elijah. The writer of James emphasizes that Elijah had the same nature we do. James is saying that the same opportunity to challenge the darkness in the world is available to us. We too can pray.
We too can be used by God to shine light into the darkness by answered prayer. In times of spiritual darkness, God raises up people who can pray.