There will be more than one Prayer Lesson concerning Elijah. There just must be! The New Testament mentions this giant of a man (spiritually) as a paragon of prayer. Read with me part of James 5:17-18. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias (Elijah) was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly ….”
You might say Elijah did everything earnestly!
To express “pray earnestly” in Greek, James had to use both a verb and a noun. He “doubles” the available prayer words! It’s somewhat like this: Elijah praying prayer held up the rain! Or Elijah praying prayer called down the fire! Or Elijah praying prayer brought back the rain, in abundance!
This is intense prayer! (In many ancient languages “doubling” a word makes it very powerful! In Hebrew it makes the whole thought “superlative!”)
Add to this description of Elijah as a praying man the previous clause in James’ report. About prayer needing to be “effectual” and “fervent” … and you have two more adjectival words about Elijah. He was the very epitome of these descriptions. Now both “effectual” and “fervent” are translations of one Greek word “energo!”
And “energo” means?
Look at it! It’s virtually our word “energy!” It means “work” (“ergon” in Greek) … plus the idea of something being internal (“en” in Greek) … thus “work, power, strength,” with a visible presence too! And here “effectual fervent” is a verb, a present participle! There was something internal “operating, motivating” Elijah’s prayers! God’s “empowering strength” deep down inside the Prophet!
Concerning this great man of prayer we now have a string of descriptors!
“Praying he prayed,” intensely so, “praying prayer” was his testimony, his heritage to the Church!
Plus, he did so “energetically!” Visibly so.
But there’s one more thing, he must have been “passionate” too! Yes, he had his “ups” and “downs,” who doesn’t? But really the root of the word “passions” as used by James here is “pascho,” a verb literally meaning “to suffer” 39 times in the New Testament.
1. Elijah “prayed prayer” … King James, “prayed earnestly.”
2. And he was “energized” of God as he prayed. (This really might be what Jude calls “praying in the Spirit.” Precisely, Jude’s 20th verse: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost ….”) In the King James “effectual earnest” prayer.
3. Also he “suffered,” was a “man of passions,” like us too. God did not have this prayer warrior on a pedestal somewhere. Elijah was in the “trenches” of spiritual warfare. Ahab hated him! Jezebel tried to kill him! The population despised him (no rain for 3 years)! In Greek “pascho” is not far removed from the word “pathos,” our word for much of the emotional life. Yes, Elijah became discouraged once, suicidal even! But he prayed himself out of that cave, that pit!
4. And because of such character, of being such a person of prayer … Elijah now is memorialized in Scripture. He has “a good name” forevermore! And we all know how Proverbs 22:1 begins: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”
Because … he prayed.
So may we!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell