Do you ever feel like your prayers don’t get answered? Perhaps you’ve prayed for something for a long time and it seems like God doesn’t hear your prayers. You may be asking why is my prayer not answered? Or perhaps you are looking for how to pray and get answers. Over time you may be feeling discouraged and wondering how long should you keep praying for an answer?
There are probably some things in my life that you have been praying about for years. These may be are things that you believe God wants to fulfill because they are prayers for others. But for whatever reason, they have not been answered yet. Are you praying for the right things? Will your prayers ever be answered?
These questions in my own life led me to spend some time re-visiting the story of Elijah on top of Mt. Carmel.
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Lessons from Elijah’s Prayers for Rain
Elijah probably felt this way too! In 1 Kings 18, The Israelites had turned away from God and started worshiping idols. Because of this, there had been no rain for three years.
At the end of that time, Elijah met with King Ahab and invited him and all the people as well as the prophets of Baal and Asherah to the top of Mount Carmel. This was the time to show the nation (again) who the true God was.
Mountaintop Meeting with Enemies of God
It’s hard to imagine the bravery and strength it took for Elijah to attend that mountain top meeting. He had called the meeting by the word of God, but still, he was there alone with his servant against 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah as well as the king and who knows how many other people. Elijah had been hiding from King Ahab for three years! Now, he was directing a meeting with all of the men and soldiers who had been hunting for him while he hid.
Elijah gave the people a choice – choose God or Baal. The prophets of Baal built an altar and started calling on Baal while dancing and shouting, but there was no response. Elijah started to taunt them after many hours and suggested that perhaps Baal was sleeping, gone on a trip, or busy.
The prophets of Baal shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears until they were bleeding. This continued the entire day until it was close to the time for the evening sacrifices. The prophets were surely exhausted from all their activity throughout the heat of the day.
Praying for Rain
Elijah then called the people to come closer as he took 12 stones and quietly rebuilt an altar to God. I picture this scene as quite the contrast to the rest of the day. One man quietly hefting the stones into place compared to 950 prophets shouting for Baal. Then Elijah dug a trench around the altar. He laid the wood on the altar and added the offering.
At this point, it would seem that all was in readiness, but Elijah surprised the watching throng by asking the people to bring four large jars with water and pour it over the offering and wood. He asked them to do this three times so that there was so much water on the wood and the altar that it ran down and filled the trench with water. (1 Kings 18)
The Bible doesn’t say how far the people had to go to get water from the top of the mountain, but my guess is that since there had been a drought for three years, they probably had to hike down the mountain to find water.
This took time and provided the people time to think about the day’s events and also about what Elijah was doing. They had time to remember the evening sacrifices they had been involved with as children or stories their ancestors had told them.
Once the trench was filled, Elijah stepped forward and began to pray. He told God that he had been faithful and done all that God had asked. Then he asked God to answer his prayers so the people would turn back to Him.
You know the story. Fire falls from heaven and burns up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and even the water in the trench. There is no doubt that this is an act of God. With that much water on the wood and the altar, Elijah could not have started the fire himself.
The people immediately fall on the ground and acknowledged that the Lord is God.
This could have been the end of the story. “…And the Israelites followed God for the rest of their days.” But, that is not the ending in the Bible. Elijah told the people to seize the false prophets and take them to the valley to destroy them. Then Elijah told King Ahab to “eat and drink, for there is the sound of heavy rain.” (v. 41)
Elijah’s Seven Prayers for Rain in 1 Kings 18
Meanwhile, Elijah climbed back up to the top of the mountain and began to pray again. He asked God for rain. He had told King Ahab that there would be heavy rain, and in faith, Elijah could hear the rain coming.
But, even with the promise of rain, Elijah prayed. He continued his actions in faith that God would answer his prayer. He sent his servant to go toward the sea but the servant returned without seeing any indication of rain. Elijah repeated this exercise seven times!
Finally, the seventh time, the servant returned with news that there was a small cloud coming up from the sea. Elijah sent the servant to the king and told him to hitch his chariot and hurry down the mountain before the rain came.
For three years, the land had been in a severe drought as a direct result of the people turning away from God. But in this moment, Elijah had faith to hear the rain coming. He knew the rain had been withheld because of the people’s path away from God and now that they had returned to God, the rain would return.
Elijah had faith to send his servant to the sea seven times to keep looking for the rain cloud. He was certain that it would come. Then, when the tiniest cloud appeared on the horizon, he knew that there was heavy rain coming and coming quickly.
Three Lessons from Elijah in 1 Kings 18
There are three specific lessons from this story about Elijah. Lessons that can be applied to your prayer life today. These lessons can help encourage you when you feel like you’ve been praying for rain and the answers haven’t come yet.
In this story, the rain was a necessity of life. Without rain, the crops didn’t grow, the livestock died, and people died. There was no food without rain. The rain represented the blessings of heaven to provide for the needs of the people. When the blessings of heaven had stopped, it was a signal to the people that they were not following God’s commands.
Elijah Listened and Followed God’s Commands
Elijah was listening to God when he was told to tell the King there would be no rain and continued to listen when it was time to tell the King the drought was over. He was listening and willing to follow God’s command. Sometimes it would be so much easier if God would just speak to you so you could hear Him. You would gladly follow His leading if only you knew what His leading was!
But perhaps, you are telling God what you want Him to tell you rather than really listening to him. It takes time and practice to listen to God. You can only listen to God’s leading if you spend time with Him, searching through the Bible for promises that He will hear and answer your prayers.
Elijah was claiming God’s promise of rain, so he had faith to continue praying for that promised rain. As you pray for specific people or situations, look for those promises of God and claim them as you pray. When you pray, claiming God’s promises you know that you are praying for God’s will.
Elijah Stood up for What Was Right
Because of his relationship with God, Elijah was willing to stand up for God in front of 950 prophets as well as in front of the community who had turned against what he was supporting – God.
Personally, I have a hard enough time standing up in front of people who are supporting me let alone in front of the enemy or those who are doing things that are wrong. But Elijah knew that God was faithful. He knew that God would take care of him and that God’s name was on the line.
Because of Elijah’s faith and trust, he was able to stand up for the right and bring the nation of Israel back to an awareness of God. He was used by God in a mighty way.
This wasn’t something that one morning, Elijah decided to do on his own. He had spent the last three years hiding in the wilderness being fed by ravens. He had spent time with God and been totally and completely dependent on God for every need he had. He was essentially homeless for 3 years waiting for God’s timing.
Elijah Kept Praying Until His Prayer was Answered
It probably could have been easy for Elijah to quit praying. To run off the top of the mountain and just disappear into the wilderness again when the rain didn’t come the first few times he prayed. Elijah had just ordered the deaths of all of the false prophets and the people were following his direction. People were watching what he did and said.
But Elijah didn’t give up or lose hope. He knew that God had promised rain and IF God promised rain, the rain would surely come. He spoke to the king with confidence when he told him to eat and prepare for heavy rain.
Elijah spoke to his servant in faith when he asked him to look for the cloud and then asked him again, six more times. He didn’t give up after the long day on the mountain top because his job was not finished. Elijah knew that God would send the rain. God had already told him that the rain would come. That’s why they had called this meeting!
Applying Elijah’s Prayers to Your Own Prayer Life
Today, what is keeping you from praying for rain and living a life of listening to God? What is holding you back from believing that the God of 1 Kings 18 has heavy rain stored up for you? Are you faithfully following Him and living a life of expectation – waiting and looking for His blessings? Are you continually praying for rain?
Sometimes, it seems like we pray for the same things for a long time. Just like Elijah prayed over and over for the rain. In actuality, Elijah had probably been praying for rain for three years. He was away from home, living in the wilderness, waiting for the birds to bring his meals each day.
One of the best ways to keep track of your prayers is to write them down and date the requests. Then as you continue to pray for those requests, you will start to see God’s answers. It is easy to forget the answers to prayer unless we write them down and keep track. This helps build your faith and gives you something to look back at to see how God has led you and provided for your needs.
Write down those three years in the wilderness when God has fed you with ravens and kept you safe. Write down the answers you have received. Look for those promises that God has given in the Bible and start claiming those Bible promises as you pray for your children.
Keep praying for rain! Keep watching for those rain clouds. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and His answers to your prayers.
For additional prayer encouragement, read the following: