Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:17-18I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and I came upon the stories of Elijah. Over the last few years, Elijah has become one of my favorite biblical characters. But as I read through the stories of his life yet again, I began to reflect on the biblical truth that Elijah was a man just like us. And yet, his life was so powerful!
Elijah lived an amazing life. He was fed by ravens. He saw the widow’s supply of oil and flour miraculously never run out. He raised her son back to life. And he faced down the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.
What was it about Elijah that made his prayers, his life, so powerful and effective? What can we learn from the life of Elijah to help our own prayer lives?
Elijah learned to be completely dependent on God. After Elijah’s first confrontation with King Ahab, God sent him to the Kerith Brook. There Elijah sat, no food, no provisions. But God saw his needs. It was there, with everything stripped away, that God sent ravens to bring him food.
So Elijah did as the Lordtold him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:5-6
Elijah was in hiding from the evil King Ahab. He had no way to meet his own needs. He was completely at the mercy of God himself, doing his best to walk in obedience. And God, Jehovah Jireh, provided as only He can.
Even when the brook dried up, Elijah had no need to fear. His source of provision dried up, but His God’s faithfulness didn’t. He went to the widow of Zarephath, completely convinced of God’s faithfulness to provide for his needs. And, as before, God did what only He could do.
Elijah prayed boldly for God-sized miracles. Elijah didn’t mess around with small requests for God. He went straight to big requests. Pray for a drought in the land. Raise the widow’s son from the dead. Call down fire from heaven to consume the offering on Mount Carmel.
At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 1 Kings 18:36, 38
Elijah was bold. He asked with incredible faith, believing that God was able. He believed that God was faithful, that He answers prayers. He called on God with enough faith to believe God would answer even the most audacious prayer.
And, without fail, God answered those audacious prayers. He poured out His power repeatedly, giving Elijah opportunity to proclaim God’s greatness.
Elijah’s prayers pointed the world back to God. Elijah was completely in tune with God. He listened for Yahweh’s voice, and he walked in obedience (1 Kings 18:36). He prayed in agreement with what God asked of him. And, his prayers pointed the world back to God.
The widow’s flour and oil never running out? A reminder that God sees our needs and provides. Raising the widow’s son from the dead? A reminder that he cares about our deepest hurts. The drought? A reminder that even the winds and the storms are subject to His control. Hear it in Elijah’s own words:
O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” 1 Kings 18:37
Yes, Elijah called down fire from heaven to consume the water and the sacrifices not for his own glory, but so others would know that Yahweh is God and there is no other God in heaven or earth. Elijah’s prayers were about pointing the world back to God.
Elijah prayed fervently until he saw the answer. Elijah knew that sometimes an answer doesn’t come immediately. He knew that we must pray until we see the breakthrough. And, he was committed for the long haul.
Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’” And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel.1 Kings 18:42b-45
Elijah had prayed the drought into existence. Now, it was time for the drought to end. He began to petition the God of the universe for rain. Not a little rain, but enough rain to quench the thirst of the land. He asked. No response. He asked again. Still no response. Seven times he asked and sent his servant to look for an answer. He prayed expecting an answer.
Finally, after seven times, a small cloud began to form. Even just a small indication that God had heard his prayer was enough. He knew a small cloud indicated God was moving in response to his prayers. And, God did exactly what he asked. He ended the drought. He sent rain on the land.
Elijah prayed through until he received an answer.
How can we tap into God’s power? How can we, ordinary men just like Elijah, experience the power of God moving in response to our prayers?
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16
We must be willing to confess our sins. We must admit our weaknesses, our failures. It’s in admitting our sins, in being honest and vulnerable with others, that we find healing. It’s through praying with others and for others that we find ourselves focusing on the character of God, on his faithfulness. It’s through confession and prayer that we position ourselves to live righteous lives, to see answers to our prayers.
We must pray earnestly, fervently. We must not give up. We must continually come before the Father asking Him to hear us, to answer. We must have an attitude of expectation (Psalm 5:3), believing that God is able and willing to answer our prayers.
We must remember that it is God’s faithfulness that we are calling on, his character. It’s about a God who longs to connect with us, to help us in our time of need. We must have faith that He is willing and able to do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.
We must remember prayer is about ordinary people calling on an Omnipotent God. Will you join Him?
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three amazing kids. Her greatest desire is to use her darkest days—days marred by adultery and divorce—to encourage others to find the joy of a life restored by Jesus Christ.
Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization with a mission of bringing hope to lives broken by the pain of this world. Her first book, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding Your Life After the Storms of Adultery and Divorce, will be released later this year.
In her spare time, Dena works as a Registered Nurse and is a regular contributor at Crosswalk.com. If you would like to contact Dena, please feel free to interact with her on her blog Dena Johnson Ministries or email her at [email protected].
Publication date: April 6, 2016
photo credit: C. E. Price
Rain in the Bible
Is rain a blessing or a curse?
by Craig C. White
God sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Mat 5:45). Do you know that that statement only appears once in the bible? Is rain a blessing or a curse? Well it can be either or both. It can also be something else altogether! In our opening statement rain is a blessing plus it is something else. It is an example for us to “do good to them that hate you” (Mat 5:44, see paragraph near the end of this commentary).
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Let’s look at rain when it is a blessing. Rain is a blessing when it waters crops to grow food. This promise is given to the nation and land of Israel. We can learn from God’s promise to Israel. I am blessed when I have food to eat. Thank you Lord.
Lev 26:4 Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. (Also Deu 11:14, Deu 28:12, Job 5:10, Zec 10:1, Heb 6:7).
Israel is instructed to ask God for rain to water crops! He says that he will give rain when we ask.
Zec 10:1 Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds,
God blesses us with rain to cause grain seed to grow for bread, and grass to grow for cattle. So rain also provides milk and meat. Moooo!
Isa 30:23 Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
Below, the rain cycle shows God’s design and provision for his creation.
Isa 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
God gives us rain in an amazing process and also gives it at the proper time so we can be happy!
Joe 2:23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
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Let’s look at rain when it is a curse.
Gen 7:4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
Rain is a curse when there is too much of it! God judged the whole earth with a flood. He provided Noah with a way to survive. That’s because God saves the righteous from His judgments.
Php 3:9-10 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
1Th 5:9-10 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
Exo 9:18 Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
God sent Moses to judge Egypt with several plagues. This one was hail. That is hardened rain. This time the rain is too hard!
Deu 11:17 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; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
First too much, now too little; this is the opposite of giving rain to water crops. Here rain is withheld so crops don’t grow and people don’t have food to eat and die. This is God’s judgment for sin.
Deu 28:24 The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.
Dust instead of rain? I’m against it!
1Sa 12:17-18 Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king. 18 So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.
Rain is good for wheat except when it is time to harvest! A heavy downpour can ruin a crop that is ready to pick. We are all in the hands of God’s provision. He sends rains where and when He wants to. He blesses and curses where and when He wants to. I vote that we fear and honor Him!
1Ki 8:35-36 When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: 36 Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance. (Also 2Ch 6:26-27).
Above, God gives or withholds rain; especially as provision to water crops and pastures, as a gage of our faithfulness or sin.
2Ch 7:12-15 And the LORD appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. 13 If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; 14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 15 Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place.
The verse above occurs when Solomon king of Israel completes building the temple. If God withholds His provision of rain, He has provided a way for us to petition Him for repentance and relief. Namely, prayer!
Job 20:23 When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.
It’s raining wrath! If we don’t honor God, He will have his way with us just when we think everything is going our way.
Psa 11:6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
This is God’s promise to every wicked person.
Psa 105:32 He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land.
The above verse refers to God’s judgment of Egypt through Moses. Again the rain is too hard! Break out the Kevlar umbrella!
Isa 5:6 And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
This was God’s warning to the nation of Israel. He kept his promise below.
Jer 14:1-7 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth. 2 Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. 3 And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. 4 Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. 5 Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass. 6 And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass. 7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.
If God didn’t spare his chosen people when they were wicked then he certainly won’t spare us. But if we sin we can come to God through Jesus Christ for forgiveness.
1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
Eze 38:22 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.
The above verse refers to the battle of Gog and Magog (see my commentary titled “Magog made Easy”). Jesus himself will contend with many nations that are led by Turkey, marching against Israel. It is going to rain on them “an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone”. I hope nobody has reserved a tee time.
Zec 14:17-18 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. 18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
During Jesus Christ’s one thousand year reign on earth all nations will be required to attend the feast of tabernacles in Jerusalem. God will curse any nation that does not attend with drought. Too little rain is a curse.
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God selectively causes or withholds rain as both a blessing and a curse.
Amo 4:7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
God chooses the time and place for rain to fall. God chooses whom He will bless or curse. He chooses when He will bless or curse them. He is able to distinguish between the field of the righteous, and the field of the wicked. He is also able to discern the thoughts and intents of a man’s heart.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Jas 5:16-18 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. 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.
Elijah was a man just like any of us, but God answered his prayer. He judged Israel by withholding rain for three and a half years. I expect my earnest prayers to be answered. I’m still waiting on some big ones.
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Put your goggles on as we look at rain when it might not be a blessing or a curse; it might not even be water; but something else altogether!
Exo 16:4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.
This time “rain” is a provision and a test. Turn your umbrella upside down! It’s raining bread!
Job 37:6 For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.
Rain is a sign of God’s active direction of earth. God directs all of the processes of nature. Who is like God is?!
Psa 147:8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
Below; the favor of the king is like the latter rain! The latter rain brings extra blessing which leads to prosperity.
Pro 16:15 In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.
Rain is a discomfort. During Jesus Christ’s one thousand year reign on earth He will build a large shelter in Jerusalem for all the tribulation period martyrs.
Isa 4:6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.
Rev 7:13-17 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Jer 10:13 When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. (Also Jer 51:16 ).
Above, the weather reflects God’s active will. He brings rain and wind out of the closet as He wishes.
Jer 14:22 Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.
Certainly people don’t cause rain. The angels don’t make it rain. God alone makes it rain because He made all things. So seek God.
Hos 10:12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
Above, rain is a symbol of how God blesses us when we seek Him.
Mat 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
In the above statement rain is a blessing plus it is something else. It is an example for us to “do good to them that hate you”. Just like God makes the sun to rise and sends rain on evil people and on good people, we should love our enemies. God extends his love toward us while we are sinners. He blesses people even when they are wicked, so they can respond to his kindness.
Rom 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Mat 7:25-27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
Here rain is a trial.
Act 14:16-17 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.
Rain is a witness of God’s goodness.
Jas 5:7-8 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
Rain teaches patience. The same way we wait for the latter rain and for the fruit of the earth (which are hearts opening to Christ), we are to wait for Jesus’ return! Jesus is waiting for many people to trust in him so they can be saved from hell and from the wrath of God that is about to come on Earth, before he returns for his Church!
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Read my new eBook God’s Great Expectations
Throughout Sukkot we hint at our desire for rain through such rituals as the water libation practiced in the Temple and the four species, particularly the willow, which represents the association of plant growth and water. Continuing with the water theme, a particular feature of Shemini Atzeret is the prayer for rain, thus officially beginning Israel’s rainy season. Since the land of Israel relies so heavily on substantial rain for its crops, the prayer for rain is recited with a special plaintive melody, and the cantor dons a white kittel (robe), as on Yom Kippur.
The prayer for rain corresponds to the prayer for dew (tal) that is said on the first day of Passover. Since the world is judged for rain at this time, according to the Talmud, it is proper to pray for rain at this time of the year. The prayer gives expression to the natural anxiety felt in Israel for the seasonal rain, the absence of which means famine, thirst, and disease. The prayer is delayed until Shemini Atzeret because it should not be invoked when fine weather is needed to enable us to dwell in the sukkah (Talmud, Sukkah28b).
The liturgy on Shemini Atzeret introduces the following phrase to be recited henceforth, until Passover, in the Amidah prayer–masheev ha’rua’ch u’moreed hagashem, “Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.”
There are six parts of the prayer for rain, each of which refers to events involving water in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and the Twelve Tribes. Here is a translation of the prayer for rain:
Our God and God of our ancestors:
Remember Abraham who flowed to You like water.
You blessed him like a tree planted by streams of water.
You rescued him from fire and water.
He passed Your test by planting good deeds by every source of water.
For Abraham’s sake, do not keep back water.
Remember Isaac, whose birth was foretold when Abraham offered the angels a little water.
You asked his father to spill his blood like water.
In the desert Isaac dug and found wells of water.
For Isaac’s sake, do not keep back water.
Remember Jacob, who crossed the Jordan’s water.
He bravely rolled the stone off the mouth of the well of water.
He wrestled with an angel made of fire and water,
And therefore You promised to be with him through fire and water.
For Jacob’s sake do not keep back water.
Remember Moses, who was drawn in a reed basket out of the Nile’s water.
Who helped Jethro’s daughters: He drew water and gave the sheep water.
He struck the rock and out came water.
For Moses’ sake do not hold back water!
Remember Aaron, the High Priest, who, on Yom Kippur, washed himself five times with water,
He prayed and was sprinkled with purifying water,
He kept apart from a people who were as unstable as water.
For Aaron’s sake do not hold back water.
Remember the Twelve Tribes whom
You brought through the divided waters;
For whom You sweetened bitter water;
Their descendants’ blood was spilled like water.
Turn to usGod, who are surrounded by troubles like water.
For the Jewish people’s sake, do not hold back water.
You are Adonai, our God
Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.
For blessing and not for curse. Amen.
For life and not for death. Amen.
For plenty and not for lack. Amen.
Excerpted from Every Person’s Guide to Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. Copyright 2000 Jason Aronson, Inc.
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