We should pray earnestly.
In James 5:17, we read that Elijah, a man with a nature just like ours, prayed earnestly—literally, he “prayed with prayer.” We see his earnestness, his intensity, his fervency, even in his posture—“he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees” (1 Kings 18:42). This was no half-hearted praying—now that repentance had come, he deeply longed for the rains to come, for God’s promises to be fulfilled. He was fully engaged, importuning the Lord for rain, seeking, knocking, asking, crying, pouring out his soul, striving, struggling, wrestling with God in prayer. Yet how often do we pray without prayer, without any real earnestness about the thing we’re bringing before the Lord, without any real seriousness or desire or yearning for it? Even the prophets of Baal put our praying to shame with their earnestness to false gods. We must pray with prayer, believing that “the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
We should pray with our eyes open.
I don’t necessarily mean with our physical eyes open. Rather, Elijah teaches us to keep watch for the answers to our prayers. Seven times Elijah sends his servant to the top of Mount Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, to see if God has sent an answer to his prayer. He’s making definite, specific requests for rain, and he is expectantly looking for God’s answer (see Ps. 5:3). Yet how often do we pray, for ourselves or for someone else, and not watch for an answer to our prayers? If we don’t care if God answers, then why do we pray? If we do care, then why do we not watch for an answer, that we might rejoice with thanksgiving? Let us pray in the same manner that we eagerly await the arrival of the package from Amazon that we ordered two days ago.
We should pray persistently.
Elijah didn’t get his answer right away, the way God answered his prayer in 1 Kings 18:38. Yet he sticks with it, he doesn’t lose heart or give up when God’s answer is “No.” He keeps praying with patience and with perseverance, sending the servant back and back and back until he sees that little cloud like a man’s hand over the horizon. Like the persistent widow of Luke 18, we are to keep praying until God in His providence makes clear that the time for prayer has ceased. It’s hard to wait on God, it’s hard to pray for the sixth or six-hundredth time. Yet because we know that nothing is too difficult for God (see Jer. 32:17), because we know that God loves us and wants the best for us, and because we know He is all-wise to know what the best for us is and when to send His best for us, we can pray with believing persistence.
May the Lord teach us how to run to Him in prayer through the running prophet.