When Elijah confronted the 450 false prophets of Baal and the 400 false prophets of the grove on Mt. Carmel, he prayed a powerful prayer to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel–a prayer that was abruptly and irrefutably answered by FIRE. This was, of course, the previously stipulated and agreed upon sign that was to conclusively prove who was right and who was wrong with regard to their doctrine and their worship–the followers of Baal or the followers of the LORD.
Notice the prayer of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:36-38:
36 And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.
37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
38 Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
It takes me 28 seconds to read this prayer–slowly and with feeling. I’m sure that some could probably drag it out, maybe even to twice that length (around a minute). Maybe in Hebrew it took longer–2 minutes, perhaps. If we stretch it out maybe it took 5 minutes.
The point is this: this was an extremely short prayer! Yet, there is no doubting the powerful and instantaneous results from this brief prayer.
Now, notice the contrast with the very next prayer that Elijah prays in verses 42-45 of the same chapter.
42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees,
43 And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times.
44 And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down that the rain stop thee not.
45And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.
Apparently, Elijah prayed for RAIN 7 times, sending his servant after each prayer to look for some sign of an answer to his prayer, before there was even the smallest indication that God had heard and, indeed, was answering his prayer (see James 5:17-18). I feel confident that this prayer meeting could have lasted at least an hour from beginning to end, and perhaps even more, depending on how far the servant actually had to go each time he went to look toward the Mediterranean Sea.
Evidently, it is far easier to pray FIRE down than it is to pray RAIN down!
FIRE (in this context) symbolized destruction and the judgment of God against the false doctrine and the religious corruption in the days of Elijah. RAIN symbolized the life-giving influence of Heaven on a dry and thirsty land parched by drought–both literally and figuratively.
I have noticed that it is far easier and it takes less time to bring FIRE down upon false doctrine than to bring RAIN down on the spiritually impoverished. It seems to take far less effort to tear down the evil than it does to build up the good. Perhaps this is the reason for the apostolic admonition in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
In our prayer, as well as our preaching, we may tend to feel discouraged when we do not see results from the “positive” as quickly as we see results from the “negative.” Nevertheless, we may rest assured that just as surely as our God is the God that answers by FIRE, He is also the God that answers by RAIN!
Remember the celebrated words of the prophet Joel in Joel 2:23-29:
23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.
28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
It is a noble and indeed necessary part of our apostolic ministry to cry out against corruption and evil and behead the beasts of false doctrine and compromise. But make no mistake about it: we will just as surely perish from a lack of RAIN as we would have perished from the unholy influence of doctrinal error!
We must not stop praying for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost RAIN! And even though it may be far easier to pray and preach FIRE down upon the false doctrines of our day, we must not merely settle for the destruction of evil; we must tenaciously persist in praying and preaching RAIN down upon our congregations. There is no viable substitute for the spontaneous and unrehearsed flowing of the Holy Ghost in our congregations–from our local services to our conferences and camp meetings!
Rev. Tim D. Cormier
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