Smoke covers the Montana Rockies. Every thunderstorm that passes through seems to touch off new blazes, which now surround my town on three sides so that the wind can’t easily clear out the smoke. Last night, flakes of ash were drifting out of the sky.
So you could say that, like Elijah, we’re praying for rain.
In the last few days, I’ve prayed for the safety of the firefighters putting their lives on the line to contain the flames. I’ve also asked for your prayer.
But last night, when I realized it had been a whole day since I prayed, something in me quailed.
Ugh. I don’t feel like praying tonight. Not again.
And that’s exactly how I knew that I needed to keep praying.
All the usual caveats concerning prayer apply. An object of prayer must be noble and praiseworthy; it must be Biblically compatible; it must be within God’s will; it must not be an empty attempt to manipulate God by treating words like magic.
But even within those guidelines, it would seem that there is more to prayer. Elijah already knew that rain in Israel was God’s will and desire (1 Kings 18:1). He wasn’t like us, who usually set the longings of our heart before him without any idea whether they align even remotely with what he’s doing. Elijah knew that he was God’s go-to guy for rain, the divinely appointed gatekeeper of the skies. He even told Ahab he heard the rain coming (cue action movie music). Yet it took seven times for the “cloud the size of a man’s hand” to show up.
There are days when we love hearing about God’s desire for persistence in prayer. It’s better than a “no”, after all.
But there are other days when praying again feels about as appealing as the Monday after New Years’, or another round of cardio after you’ve already been sweating for forty minutes. You feel a heaviness, an exhaustion. And have you ever noticed how distractions like to pop up? (One Christian writer I know says that this is only partially us; it’s also spiritual warfare intended to keep you from praying.) After years of all this, you might catch yourself developing straight-up resentment at being asked to pray again.
Those are the moments we need to pray the most.
It’s a much-debated mystery just how much of the accomplishment of God’s kingdom has been left up to us in prayer. But whatever else we believe is going on, he is testing our patience, our perseverance, and our belief in his goodness. That’ valuable. It’s worth the repetitions.
He’s worth the repetitions.
And yesterday as I wrote this, in defiance of the forecast, it started raining outside.
Praise him from whom all blessings flow.