Arminian Today

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The Power of the Intercessor

In 1 Kings 17-18 we read the story of Elijah and the drought over Israel.  We also read in 1 Kings 18 of Elijah going and proclaiming that rain was coming.  What we don’t read in these two chapters is the source of Elijah’s power.  We turn to James 5:17-18 for that and there we read:

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

When we turn to 1 Kings 17-18 we find the voice of the Lord leading Elijah through this entire situation.  We read how Elijah said to Ahab in 1 Kings 17:1 that there would be no rain but by his word.  We read again in 1 Kings 18:1 that Elijah goes back to Ahab three years later and proclaims that rain is coming upon the earth.  I love 1 Kings 18:17 where Ahab calls Elijah the “troubler of Israel.”  This set up the showdown on Mount Carmel between the false prophets of Baal and the true prophet of Yahweh, Elijah (1 Kings 18:20-40).  After this, the Lord sends rain (1 Kings 18:41-46).

Again I note that apart from James 5:17-18, we read nothing of how Elijah had such power.  We know that the hand of the Lord God was behind all this (as He is to all miracles and to all true manifestations for His glory) but we don’t read of Elijah seeking God here.  We simply know that Elijah was walking with God and walking in obedience to Him.

The insight from James 5:17-18 gives me reasons to shout for joy.  The power of the intercessor is seen in these  two short verses.  Jesus had told His disciples in John 14:13-14:

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Because of Jesus Christ, we can approach the God of Elijah and ask Him “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).  The living Spirit of God abides in the true disciple of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:13) and we have the power of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27, 34; Hebrews 7:25).  We have the right as children of God to approach God’s holy throne (Matthew 6:5, 7; Hebrews 4:14-16).  There is power in intercessory prayer not because of us (nor Elijah in 1 Kings 17-18) but in God Almighty who hears our cries and who answers our prayers (Psalm 65:2).  The promise of supernatural power (Acts 1:8) comes not from us but from the Holy Spirit who fills us.

Yet it was Elijah’s prayers according to James 5:17-18 that did all these works of power in 1 Kings 17-18.  Here is a man with a nature like ours (James 5:17) but the Spirit of God sums up his life with three words “he prayed fervently.”  We don’t read that in 1 Kings 17-18 but we do know that the source of Elijah’s power was not him (for he has no power) but in God.  Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24:

22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

The power was not in Elijah nor in the Apostles nor in us.  The power is in God.  I sort of cringe when I hear people say that there is power in prayer.  Technically, there is only true power found in God.  However, because God hears our prayers and because He answers our prayers, there is power in prayer because of the God who answers our prayers.  This is true of Elijah.  Matthew Henry, the great Puritan Bible commentator, wrote about James 5:17:

He who He who prays must be a righteous man; not righteous in an absolute sense (for this Elias was not, who is here made a pattern to us), but righteous in a gospel sense; not loving nor approving of any iniquity. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer, Ps. 66:18 . Further, the prayer itself must be a fervent, in-wrought, well-wrought prayer. It must be a pouring out of the heart to God; and it must proceed from a faith unfeigned. Such prayer avails much. It is of great advantage to ourselves, it may be very beneficial to our friends, and we are assured of its being acceptable to God. It is good having those for friends whose prayers are available in the sight of God. The power of prayer is here proved from the success of Elijah. This may be encouraging to us even in common cases, if we consider that Elijah was a man of like passions with us. He was a zealous good man and a very great man, but he had his infirmities, and was subject to disorder in his passions as well as others. In prayer we must not look to the merit of man, but to the grace of God. Only in this we should copy after Elijah, that he prayed earnestly, or, as it is in the original, in prayer he prayed. It is not enough to say a prayer, but we must pray in prayer. Our thoughts must be fixed, our desires firm and ardent, and our graces in exercise; and, when we thus pray in prayer, we shall speed in prayer. Elijah prayed that it might not rain; and God heard him in his pleading against an idolatrous persecuting country, so that it rained not on the earth for the space of three years and six months. Again he prayed, and the heaven gave rain, etc. Thus you see prayer is the key which opens and shuts heaven. To this there is an allusion, Rev. 11:6 , where the two witnesses are said to have power to shut heaven, that it rain not. This instance of the extraordinary efficacy of prayer is recorded for encouragement even to ordinary Christians to be instant and earnest in prayer. God never says to any of the seed of Jacob, Seek my face in vain. If Elijah by prayer could do such great and wonderful things, surely the prayers of no righteous man shall return void. Where there may not be so much of a miracle in God’s answering our prayers, yet there may be as much of grace.

The power of the intercessor lies not in us but in the grace of our God who hears our prayers and who answers our prayers. In this way, like that of Elijah, we can have the power of God and see the supernatural hand of God at work in our world and in our lives.

One last point as I end this.  I believe that we often don’t pray “big” prayers because we fear that they will not be answered. I believe we should pray for big things.  Pray for that wretched sinner who seems so far from God, such a hater of the truth.  Perhaps it was the prayers of Stephen in Acts 7:60 that led to Saul’s conversion in Acts 9.  We should pray when all hope seems lost.  We should pray when others are doubting the power of God.  Again Jesus said in Mark 11:22 to have faith in God (a command) and we would see mountains move.  We tend to pray for safe things but God wants us to pray for all things (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Pray for revival.  Pray for souls to be saved.  Pray for people to be sanctified.  Pray for the Lord to build up His Church.  Pray for all things and believe in the power of God to provide His answers in His timing (1 John 5:14-15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/23/2013 at 11:17 AM

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