The dire need of today’s church is for preachers to become praying people in order to harness the resources of heaven and become channels of blessing. If society is to be impacted with the presence of the Lord, Preachers must have a vivid knowledge of the Holy One. That is discovered “in the shelter of the Most High” and “under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalms 91:1).
As William Longstaff wrote in poetic eloquence, it takes effort to he holy by spending “much time in secret with Jesus alone.” It is a lonely vigil but the most rewarding experience this side of heaven. A joyous presence envelopes us throughout the day after experiencing the satisfaction of worshipping Him. According to the Psalmist, it is a place of stillness where we know God (Psalms 45:10). We can only hear Him speak to us when we are quiet before Him.
God hears us when we leave the tumble and rush of the world for the quiet hour. That is illustrated by Jesus who often went to a mountain to have a night-long conversation with His heavenly Father. This was also true of Elijah. He was strengthened by food prepared by an angel and traveled alone for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the Mountain of God. During that journey he enjoyed companionship and fellowship with the Lord (1 Kings 19:5-8).
He was so dedicated to the Lord that even his name means “my God is Jehovah.” Because his abode was repeatedly in the throne room of the Majesty on High, he could challenge the regal. power of Ahab, the king of Israel, his pagan queen, Jezebel, and her idolatrous priests of Baal. Elijah proved His God-given authority when he issued his ultimatum to Ahab, “as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next tew years except at my word’” (1 Kings 17:1). Cod hid Elijah for those years in His presence “in the ravine of Kerith” (1 Kings 17:3). Later the Lord sheltered him in a widow’s home in Zarephath in Phoenicia outside the jurisdiction of Ahab. Although the prophet had these locations as addresses, yet he must have spent most of his time in each with the Sovereign of the universe. Hence, Ahab could never find him for he did not know that one or the place of his habitation.
Few people have had a prayer life like Elijah. He had a consciousness of God and was intimate with Him. He walked with the Lord and lived with a sense of His presence. Hence, He fearlessly challenged the idolatry of Israel. As it came time for him to end his sojourn on earth, God did it in an unique way. “When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:1), He sent a chariot of fire.
The epitaph of Elijah is recorded by James, when he pens, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and. the heavens gave rain and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:16-18). Elijah was like any of us. He had two eyes, two ears, two hands, two feet, and a mouth. He was subject to the same emotions as despondency, fear, elation, or joy. What made him different? Why was he courageous to stand against the wicked kingdom of Israel and the threats of its evil despot? The answer is he had been a lifelong student in the University of Silence. He had been under the tutorship of the eternal Master in the desert. God instructed Moses, John the Baptist, and Paul in the same rugged environment.
Elijah’s life was a record of prayer vigils resulting in challenges to unrighteousness. When Elijah prayed, he prayed earnestly with agony, purpose, fervor, zeal, and intensity. He did not say words or mouth meaningless religious phrases. He was unconcerned with colorful sentences to appeal to aesthetic tastes; instead he prayed knowing God and His authority. His prayers were dramatically and swiftly answered by action, like fire, drought, rain, or giving life to a dead boy. He had power because he prayed. It was prayer that made him a dynamic prophet.
Because Elijah found that “place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God,” he heard God speak, not in the tornado, the earthquake, or the tire, but by a gentle whisper in the inner sanctum of his being. If we are to hear that still small voice, it will take a life of sacrifice as it was with the holy men of old. It will demand less time with temporal ephemeral things and more with the permanent and eternal.
It will take dedication to increased conversation with the Lord. Then the tinsel and trappings of this world will give way to a walk of fellowship in the royal company of the Monarch of creation.
In this close relationship, we will get a new perspective on life with a fresh awareness of Jehovah. We will feel the atmosphere of heaven in our souls, the throb of God pulsating in our hearts, and the songs of Zion will be on our lips. Our concerns will change. We will have a humble spirit. When we have an intimate knowledge of the Lord, gained in the stillness of His presence, then He “will be exalted among the nations” and He “will be exalted in the earth” (Psalms 46:10). Be a praying preacher.
Scripture references are quoted from the New International Version.
Five Prayers for Every Preacher
In the midst of the countdown to Sunday, I’m learning to bathe my sermons with these five specific prayers.
Preaching, week in and week out, can be a grind. I remember hearing Bill Hybels refer to it this way, “You can only hit the same nail for so long before it gets old.” I was younger when I heard his comment, and remember thinking “I can’t imagine a day when I won’t be absolutely energized by getting up to preach on a Sunday morning.” Now I know better. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a worthy endeavor and I feel undeniably called to it. But when you speak almost every week, sometimes multiple messages, it can start to wear you down. And when it does my default is to focus more on content (What do I want to say?) than on my own spiritual engagement (Who do I want to be?).
So in the midst of the countdown to Sunday, I’m learning to bathe my sermons with these five specific prayers. I wish I could tell you I pray these prayers diligently every week that I speak; I don’t. But when I do, I’m better prepared to wrestle down what I think God may be prompting …
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