We lived in troublesome times marked by fear and confusion. In an election year, we hear a multitude of opinions, promises, and rhetoric. The Bible reminds us that sometimes the battle for people, families, and societies is not merely natural. There are spiritual forces at work. And spiritual forces require spiritual engagement.
Once in the ministry of Jesus, when his disciples were unable to solve a dilemma, he reminded them, "This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting."
A man named Elijah, one who feared the Lord, lived in troublesome times. He had no confidence in the political leaders of his nation, a godless couple named Ahab and Jezebel. The king and queen led the nation into all sorts of idolatry, eventually persecuting and killing many of the prophets of the one true God. That God, Jehovah, spoke to this man Elijah, a Tishbite.
God told Elijah that as punishment for the sins of the nation, He was sending a drought. It would not rain until God allowed it. Elijah announced this punishment to king Ahab. Then, God hid his prophet for three and a half years (1 Kings 17) during the drought. Killing Elijah would not have stopped the drought, but godless people sometimes like to attack God's messengers. (Houston, you can demand pastors to turn in their sermons, but you can't change their God nor what He has said, nor their constitutional rights.)
After three and a half years, the Lord and Elijah had a huge confrontation with the priests of Baal, priests under the domination of Queen Jezebel. God showed up in a big way, confirming that he is God and Baal is false.
Then, God revealed to Elijah that it was about to rain. Before rain came, Elijah began interceding - praying to God to send the rain. Some people remark that the position he took in 1 Kings 18:42 was one of a Jewish woman in labor. Elijah knew God was going to send rain, but the prophet assumed the position of a praying intercessor. He became an agent through which God could birth a miracle and bring rain.
After seven times of prayer, Elijah's servant saw a small raincloud coming. Soon, heavy rain poured.
Years later, the apostle James comments on this account: The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 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 land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).
James reminds us of a few potent truths . . .
1. Elijah's prayer life included the potential to stop rain and produce rain for 3 1/2 years as he partnered with God.
2. Elijah was a man just like us - not any more or less.
3. The prayers today of godly people full of faith, the Holy Spirit, and the fear of the Lord can accomplish much.
Wow. The prayers of one man affected the course of the entire nation.
Again and again in Scripture, God worked through the prayers of one man or woman to bring real change.
Might God use the prayers of one righteous person today to affect the course of our nation? Might God use the prayers of one family, church, or small group to alter our future?
Fasting and Prayer
In years past, some Presidents and political leaders understood that we are truly one nation under God. During times of deep national crisis, leaders called our nation to a day or season of fasting and prayer. They understood that some problems faced by the country were too grand for human ingenuity to solve. They needed God. They needed His help.
John Adams, second President of the United States, understood this truth. When faced with the threat of a national crisis from a foreign power, he called for a day of fasting and prayer for May 9, 1798 . . .
As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist . . . .
See a long list here of days of fasting and prayer issued by our government leaders in times past. You can also read the proclamations at the same site.
According to the Bible, when peoples and countries face deep crises, they should fast and pray. They should turn aside from what they normally do, stop eating for a designated time, and cry out to God. Fasting is one spiritual discipline through which we humble ourselves before Him and ask for His help.
Personally, I have little confidence in our current government leaders in the White House to handle our problems efficiently. However, the Bible says that God hears the remnant. He hears the few that still fear, love, and serve Him. God promised Abraham that if He found ten righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he would spare them from judgment. Why? Because God hears His remnant. He acts on behalf of His remnant.
The prayers of one man brought the rain after three and a half years of drought. And he was a man just like you and me.
During this Presidential election year, I challenge believers to fast and pray for America. And pray for the Lord to raise up godly, wise leadership. Here are 7 qualities to pray for the President of the United States.
I challenge you, fellow Christians, to begin fasting and praying for America. Begin setting aside some meals and spending that time in God's presence, praying to Him, on your knees, with an open Bible, pouring your heart out to God.
These battles cannot be fought with politics, military, or medical doctors alone. We need God's help. We need God's help again.
Because, as the second President of the United States understood, "the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God."