“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18)
James makes reference to Elijah’s prayers in conjunction with his exhortation for us to pray in faith, confess our sin, and be fervent in prayer and righteous in behaviour. The actual events that James is referring to occurred at a time whenIsrael had turned away from the Lord their God to the gods of the surrounding nations.
Under Ahab and Jezebel Israel had turned its back on the Lord. “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33)
That Elijah prayed that it would not rain reveals that it can be God’s will to stop the rain in order to get His people to return to Him. The drought was to get the attention of His own people not that of the world.
We make a mistake, I believe, if we think that droughts or other ‘natural’ disasters or pestilences are solely to gain the attention of an unbelieving world. It is to provoke Christians to pray but not for rain. We are to pray believing in the Person of our God in our Lord Jesus Christ, confessing our sin of serving ourselves instead of Him and turn to righteous behaviour. In other words, droughts or other disasters are calling God’s people to repentance. We cannot expect the ungodly that are dead spiritually to repent if those who claim to be alive spiritually will not. In Revelation 6:16 we can read how unbelievers would rather die than repent.
The accusation that James makes is that God’s people were praying for selfish things, for their own pleasure and ease of conscience instead of being involved with the interests of Jesus Christ (James 4:3).
If in a drought God gave us rain without our repentance what would we do? We would probably turn to other selfish prayers. Is this the meaning of prayer, to treat God as Father Christmas to give us pleasure and joy?
Prayer is a man or woman, boy or girl, communing and living with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. We cheapen this if we pray with no regard to the Person with whom we commune. We wouldn’t do that with our spouse or our children, would we?
In Australia we have a spiritual drought among God’s people and this may be why we have experienced rain drought. It is time we repented and returned to our Lord and let Him fulfil His mission in and through us. In 1967 and 1968 Billy Graham came to Australia for evangelistic meetings. It wasn’t Billy Graham that saved people; it was the Lord Jesus Christ in response to the praying of God’s people inAustralia.
Christians began praying for the unsaved months before Billy Graham ever came. They were surrendered to Jesus Christ and obeyed Him by sowing the Seed of the Word of God in the hearts of unbelievers and watering it with daily prayer. Droughts and disasters may be God’s provocation for us to do the same.