How stubborn are you?

©iStock.com/ djedzura

©iStock.com/ djedzura

Anyone who’s ever been around a toddler knows the meaning of the word “stubborn.” To a two-year-old, “No!” means “Try again later when mom’s not looking.”

Although we don’t generally consider stubbornness to be a desirable quality, I have to wonder if it wasn’t one reason for Elijah’s effectiveness. He just kept on praying for as long as it took to get an answer. When the son of the Sidonian widow died, Elijah didn’t pray once, dust off his hands, and say, “Well, I guess it’s not God’s will that he should be resurrected.” Instead, he prayed again. And again. Three times he stretched out over the boy and prayed (1 Kings 17:21).

But three times is nothing compared to the incident on Mount Carmel. God had already told Elijah that He was going to bring rain (1 Kings 18:1). Given the directness of His message, it would be entirely understandable if Elijah had prayed for rain once and headed for home to await God’s timing. After all, faith grasps His promises with confidence, right?

Elijah wasn’t satisfied with a passive approach. Instead he prayed, sent his servant to check for signs of rain, and then prayed again—seven times!

Why did he keep praying? Didn’t he trust God to deliver on His promise?

I consulted some Bible commentaries to see what the experts say about this. All pointed to a human need for prayer and a metaphorical understanding of this event. It wasn’t that God needed to be convinced to come through on His promise. Rather, the people who had just witnessed that amazing miracle on Carmel needed Elijah’s intercession on their behalf.

Remember, these people had been following false gods for some time. Although their idolatry was most marked during Ahab and Jezebel’s reign, they had been moving away from God since the time of Jeroboam. They needed much more than one Wow moment. They needed true revival and reformation—a change of heart. So Elijah continued to plead for his countrymen as the Spirit worked on those hardened hearts. The physical rain came only when the hard ground of their hearts had been readied to receive the spiritual rain.

We face a similar crisis today, and we can’t afford to get apathetic about it. Satan is working harder than ever before to distract us from eternal issues—and he succeeds in waylaying many people. As a world, we’ve been drifting farther and farther from the Father. This is no time for us to shrug our shoulders and adopt and wait-and-see attitude. Like Elijah, we must pray persistently—stubbornly—for revival and reformation. And we must continue to pray—whether it takes a month or a decade.

“You too must be patient and stout-hearted, for the coming of the Lord is near”  James 5:8.

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