Faith Like Elijah Part 3: Effective Prayer

Bible Passage: 1 Kings 17:17-24

Following God is no guarantee that seemingly “bad” things won’t happen. Let’s look at the widow’s situation in our passage for today. God was miraculously sustaining the widow, her son, and Elijah with daily provisions of grain and oil. While hosting God’s prophet, the son suddenly becomes ill and dies. Scripture makes it clear that he is in fact dead by mentioning that “he stopped breathing.” The boy wasn’t in a coma, asleep, or in a state of shock. His body was dead and his soul has departed.

The son was the widow’s only future as he would be the one to care for her in her old age. Imagine the crushing loss that she faces! First her husband has died. Next, a severe drought and famine is ongoing. Finally, her only son is gone. She feels as though God is punishing her as she remarks to Elijah “call attention to my iniquity so that my son is put to death”

Can you sympathize with the widow’s feelings at this point? Have you ever faced death, loss of health, bitter disappointment, or other crushing blows in life? Maybe you faced these difficulties as you were following God and seeking Him daily. If we are to be honest with God, we need to admit that we have doubts, fears, and hurts in our life. Even when we are obeying God, life can be hard and unfair!

I wonder about Elijah’s relationship with the boy. Might he have come to care about the son? I imagine that during his stay with the widow that the son (like most boys I know) would have gravitated to the male figure Elijah. Elijah may have talked with him and taught him about the God of Israel. Elijah may have told him the history of how God had delivered His people and how God had fed him personally with the ravens. I would assume that Elijah would have been saddened by the sudden passing of the boy. Scriptures don’t discuss Elijah’s relationship with the son so we can only imagine.

How did Elijah respond? He took the lifeless boy upstairs in his arms, laid him on his bed, stretched himself over the boy three times. Can you see Elijah tenderly picking the lifeless boy up from his mother’s arms and gently carrying him upstairs? Elijah “cried out to the Lord” and asked that God bring the boy’s life back into him again. In verse 22, we learn that “the LORD listened to Elijah, and the boy’s life came into him again, and he lived.” Can you imagine the joy of Elijah and especially of the grieving widow when God brought the boy back? A day of death and despair was immediately turned into a day of great joy and renewed hope. Verse 24 reveals the widow’s profession of faith in Elijah and God of Israel. Ken Schroeder writes in his commentary Elijah: Living Outside the Comfort Zone :

“The women’s confession. . . indicated that she had come to faith through this agonizing experience. . .In essence the woman confessed that she believed in the Lord God of Israel because He raised her son. The reality of the resurrection is rooted in faith in the living God.”

God is the Author of Life, we see this particularly in Genesis wherein God “breathes life in Adam” at creation. Death is no obstacle to God as demonstrated in numerous passages in the Scriptures. Jesus commanded Lazarus to “come forth.” Peter and Paul also brought people back (through Jesus Christ’s power). Faith is powerful!

What was it that made Elijah’s faith/prayer effective? He trusted in God and brought the issue of death to God knowing that God has the ability to bring the boy back. James 5:16-17 mentions Elijah’s effective prayer. The key is faith–prayer must be rooted in the confidence that God hears us and will respond according to His will. How do you respond when you face difficulties? Do you bring them before God in faith? Trusting God and bringing our troubles before Him is a great privilege and relief.

Life Applications from this passage

1. Notice that Elijah didn’t give the widow “helpful” platitudes or a theology lesson–he took the boy and prayed over him! He acted with compassion not correction. He didn’t respond to her comment.
2. Elijah trusted the boy to God’s Amazing Power! That’s all that he could do in light of the death. We need to be praying for others daily, bringing others before God’s Throne!
3. Faith comes from acknowledging God. The death and return to life of the boy opened the mother’s heart to God. What began as tragedy resulting in her trusting in God. Our difficulties will lead us closer to Christ!
4. We need to expect difficulties in life! Christians and non-Christians alike suffer illness, death, and sorrow in life. Christians turn to God and receive comfort through His Living Word and Holy Spirit.

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Just a pilgrim walking each day with Jesus and hoping to encourage others along the path.

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