v 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
Here is Elijah praying again – in more dramatic circumstances than before – and this time his life was on the line. He was hugely outnumbered by the hostile prophets of Baal but he knew it was God’s honour that was really at stake. His earnest desire was that the people of Israel should return to worship of the true God and so be restored and recognised as God’s people. The story of this confrontation on Mount Carmel, and the outcome, is well known. God’s response was immediate, and fire came down from Heaven.
What is not so well remembered is Elijah’s patient perseverance in prayer for the rain that followed. God’s response is not immediate, and Elijah has to persevere in asking.
Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally, the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’
I imagine Elijah breathing a great sigh of relief, rain at last; but only after asking seven times.
It is this aspect of prayer that sometimes eludes us – patiently going on asking. Are you a patient pray-er? Are you prepared to go on asking even when there is no immediate response? Prayer is work and sometimes we just have to knuckle down to it until the job is done.