The Prayers of a Righteous Man

Elijah the Prophet – One of the greatest figures of the Old Testament: his name becomes associated in messianic prophecies with the coming of the Messiah.  He both prefigures the Messiah, and is a sign of the Messiah’s coming.  He is a beloved figure for people of faith because of the many miracles he performed.

We know nothing of Elijah’s birth or upbringing.   In the scriptures, Noah is called righteous, David is said to have of heart for God and Moses humble, but of Elijah we know of no virtues, though we do see his courage as well as his doubts.   

But Elijah is an example of the charismatic nature of the Holy Spirit.  It comes upon this man not because he is the most holy, nor because he prays the most, or is the most faithful, but for God’s own reasons.  Sometimes God bursts into people’s lives totally unexpectedly, and He gives an individual power to do His will, to perform miracles, to speak boldly in God’s Name.  Usually these prophets are not part of the institutional religion – they are not a priest, nor a prince, but often come from surprising and humble origins.

And suddenly the Word of God came to Elijah as is described in 1 Kings 17.  And Elijah knows his message is from God and he boldly speaks to the King.

Prophecy – because it is unexpected and surprising and not through the institutional channels, it is sometimes hard to recognize when the power is legitimate or not.   Israel is plagued by false prophets.   This is one of the down sides of charismatic experience.  Many people can’t discern the Spirit and so claim power when they have not been so chosen by God.

Elijah is told to preach bad news to the king – there’s going to be a drought, and Elijah has to go into hiding for being the messenger of bad news.

God tells Elijah to go to a certain city, for “I have commanded a widow to feed you.”    But interestingly in the story the widow seems unaware of this command from God.   She kindly and reluctantly agrees to help Elijah but never shows any sign that God has commanded her to do anything.   This is one of the mysteries of God.   He doesn’t need a person to be aware that they are obeying His command. 

Finally we see in this one story of Elijah the women whom God chose to help Elijah, is not spared suffering, as her son nearly dies as a result of illness, and yet as always with God’s story it doesn’t end there, for Elijah is able to restore the boy to health.   Elijah is also and always also a messenger of hope and faith in God who Provides for his chosen ones.

Elijah is a human like you and I and he demonstrates the power of intercessory prayer.  He intercedes with God on the behalf of others, and by his prayers being answered he witnesses to others about the power of God and about God’s willingness to listen to a righteous person.

Holy Prophet Elijah pray to God for us.

(These were my sermon notes from July 2003)

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