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1 Kings 18:41-48 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:50 mins 4 secs

Praying on the Promises. 1 Kings 18:41-46


Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we have in the spiritual life. As church age believers we have direct access to God because of the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross, because He is our high priest, because He is seated at the right hand of God the Father we have an advocate with the Father. All of these are profound truths that we know of and are aware of through revelation in the New Testament. One of the greatest examples of prayer in the Bible is that Old Testament figure that is used to exemplify the power of prayer is Elijah. This whole episode with Elijah from the beginning of 1 Kings 17 and on through his life beyond this is characterized by prayer, and that is picked up by James in the New Testament.

Following the execution of the false prophets Elijah then addresses Ahab. 1 Kings 18:41 NASB "Now Elijah said to Ahab, 'Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a {heavy} shower.'" He knows the rain is coming; he knows that God has promised him in the first verse of the chapter: that he was to go to Ahab and that God would send rain. So Elijah is predicting the coming of the rain, the end of the three and a half-year drought that was God's punishment, His judgment on Israel for their apostasy, their paganism, for what Ahab and Jezebel had done in leading them into the perverse practices of the fertility religions.  

1 Kings 18:42 NASB "So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees." Elijah departs from Ahab who had been a witness to everything and he goes up to the top of Carmel and bows down on the ground. He is assuming a humble posture in prayer, and he is going to begin to pray to God to bring the rain and to end the drought. It is this prayer, as well as the prayer to begin the rain in 17:1, that is picked up by the New Testament. One of the reasons this is important is that as Christians we often forget that the Bible is really one complete book, an integrated consistent whole. We really cannot understand the New Testament without an Old Testament background, and we can't really appreciate what happens in the Old Testament until we see its fulfillment in the New Testament.

James chapter five is an interesting chapter and the conclusion is interesting because it is mostly not translated well or understood well. In 5:13-15 it appears that the focus is on physical illness and suffering, but it is talking about spiritual weakness and the weariness that comes in the battle. We grow weary and tired, struggling to do the right thing, and sometimes we give up—and that is the theme of James: "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have {its} perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing," James 1:2-4. But if we don't endure, if we fade out at the final stretch, if we grow weary, then maturity doesn't happen; growth doesn't take place. Notice in James chapter five that prayer is mentioned in verses 13, 14 and in 15—that the prayer of faith will lift up/deliver the one who is weary. That last half of verse 15 and in verse 16 focuses on dealing with sin and the importance of confession and forgiveness. Verse 15 gives a promise: the prayer of faith will lift up or deliver the weary. There is no condition there at all; there is a universal, absolute promise. Then in the last part of verse 16 we have the universal principle that "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." If this word "righteous" referred to a positionally righteous person it would mean that prayer by any believer who prays would accomplish much. But that doesn't make sense because what about a rebellious, immature believer living in carnality? That would mean that his prayer would be just as affective as the prayer of a mature believer. So it can't be positional righteousness, it has to be experiential righteousness. This is the believer who has confessed sin, he is in fellowship, and he is a growing, maturing believer. The idea is that it is prayer from mature believers who are in fellowship, applying the principles of prayer that accomplishes the solution. His prayer is powerful, emphasizing the power of prayer.

Then we have the illustration of Elijah given in James 5:17. What he is saying that Elijah is not some super-spiritual Old Testament saint, he is a man with a nature just like us; no different in terms of his humanity. He is just a human being like we are: saved by grace, forgiven; it is not his power, it is God's power, but he is willing to trust God and to pray and take God at His Word. "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 earth for three years and six months." That is what he prayed in 1 Kings 17:1. That verse doesn't mention prayer but based on James 5:17 we know that he prayed and it stopped raining. Now we are at the end of that period, God has demonstrated His reality and now is going to fulfill His promise. James 5:18 NASB "Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit."

James is saying to every believer that our prayers can be just as powerful if we are following the biblical principles for prayer. When we do then God answers them in remarkable ways. One of the reasons that Elijah's prayer is so effective is because he understands what God's promises are; he knew God's Word. In 1 Kings 17:1 he is not praying (that we know of) on a specific command from God or a specific promise, but as we have seen he goes back to Deuteronomy where God had told Israel that if they were disobedient then he would bring various judgments upon them, one of which was drought. So he is applying that promise in a general sort of way in 1 Kings 17. But if we look at 1 Kings 18:1 when  Elijah is still in Zarephath, "Now it happened {after} many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, 'Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth [land].'" There is a promise there, so when Elijah prays in 18:43, 44 he is praying on the basis of a promise; he is claiming that promise. One of the ways we will get our prayers answered is to claim a promise that God has specifically given us, so it is important to know the promises of God.

As we go through this section on Elijah there are four times that we know of that he prays. The first was the prayer to bring the drought, 1 Kings 17:1 cf. James 5:17. The second prayer is the prayer when he calls upon God to bring life back into the corpse of the widow's son in 1 Kings 17:21. The third is the prayer for the sacrifice: that God would consume the sacrifice, 1 Kings 18:36, 37. Fourth, the prayer for the rain in 1 Kings 18:42. The first three are based on general promises, general principles of God. We can access those same principles and promises the same way. The last one we know was based on a specific and direct promise from God, and we have those available to us as well. In fact, it is important for us to understand such passages as 2 Peter 1:3, NASB "seeing that His divine power [omnipotence] has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." The word "godliness" really refers to our spiritual life, so he is talking about physical provision and spiritual provision. He is going to give us everything we need in order to accomplish His will and plan for our lives. It is through the knowledge of Him that we have these things. [4] "For by these [His glory, excellence, character] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of {the} divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." What that means is that we are going to be able to have an effective relationship with God and benefit from that relationship with Him because we understand who He is and what He has given us through His Word and His promises. The key is understanding the promises.

There are four types of promises that we have in the Bible. There are personal promises. For example, there are promises God made to Abraham, but we can't apply those promises because He didn't give them to us. Second, there are national promises given to Israel—promises that God gave them the land, and they apply only to Israel as a nation, not to Christians in the church age or to anybody else. So we always have to ask that question: who is making the promise and to whom are they speaking? Is this promise a universal principle or is it historically conditioned. The third category is the universal promises, promises that are true across space and time. And even though a promise may be oriented to Israel in its situation it still manifests a universal principle. For example, Isaiah 41:10 NASB "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." That was given specifically to Israel in a certain circumstance but it is just a manifestation of a universal principle that is true for every believer in every dispensation. Then there are conditional promises such as 1 John 1:9—"If we confess our sins…" There is the condition. 

Illustrations: Joshua 1:7 NASB "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go." Is that an individual promise, a national promise, a universal promise, or a conditional promise? It is an individual promise. That is not a promise that you can take and apply it to your life. There is an underlying principle and that is that the believer who takes in the Word of God and it shapes their thinking, and they are obedient, then God is going to bless them and prosper them in terms of His plan for their life. That is the principle but this promise is one that God gave to Joshua for the defeat of the Canaanites in the land.

Joshua 10:8 NASB "The LORD said to Joshua, 'Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you'." Could a Christian claim this promise going into D-Day? No, it is an individual promise given to Joshua at a specific point in time.

Acts 1:4 NASB "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, 'Which,' {He said,} 'you heard of from Me.'" That is a one-time promise to the disciples that is historically conditioned. Same thing in Matthew 10:7, 8 NASB "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal {the} sick, raise {the} dead, cleanse {the} lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give." Again, it is historically conditioned.

2 Chronicles 7:14 NASB "and My people [Israel] who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." This is God's response to Solomon's prayer of dedication in the temple where Solomon has gone through that prayer of dedication calling upon God to bless the nation, and that of they are disobedient that God would remember His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and restore them to the land after He disciplines them. So God answers that specific prayer in this verse. It can't apply to any other nation than Israel. So we have to be very careful how we look at various promises that God has given us.

Now there are great promises in the New Testament that we do have and can claim, like Philippians 4:13 NASB "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." But even then we have to look at the context. Right before that Paul said: "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." He said, "I can handle prosperity or I can handle adversity "through Christ who strengthens me." He is not saying you can go out and do things you couldn't do yesterday because now you are strengthened in Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 NASB "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 John 5:14, 15 NASB "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us {in} whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him." That is the in-fellowship, righteous, growing believer. This is what Elijah is doing. He is praying on the promise of 1 Kings 18:1 and claiming that promise that God will fulfill it.

He perseveres, he doesn't just pray once. 1 Kings 18:43 NASB "He said to his servant, 'Go up now, look toward the sea.' So he went up and looked and said, 'There is nothing.' And he said, 'Go back' seven times." Elijah is praying all this time, he doesn't just stop; he is persistent in his prayer, that is why James uses him as an example because James' emphasis is on endurance and perseverance in times of difficulty.

1 Kings 18:44 NASB "It came about at the seventh {time,} that he said, 'Behold, a cloud as small as a man's hand is coming up from the sea.' And he said, 'Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare {your chariot} and go down, so that the {heavy} shower does not stop you.'" It is 15 miles from where they were on Mount Carmel to Jezreel where Ahab had his summer palace. So if he is going to be riding his chariot that way and these rains are going to come then he had better get a move on because of the danger of a flash flood and being mired down in the mud. [45] "In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel."

1 Kings 18:46 NASB "Then the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel." So he had additional, miraculous supernatural power to run the race physically. Why is he running ahead to Jezreel ahead of Ahab? Because he wants to be there when Ahab is going to have his confrontation with Jezebel.  She is not going to be impressed by any of the stories that he tells about what happened on Mount Carmel. She is mired in her paganism, just like a lot of the people we talk to, and no matter what the evidence is they just think we're crazy for believing it. But we know that the God of the Bible is real and true and that He answers prayer today just as He did in the time of Elijah.