|Theme: Faith Operating in Prayer|
|Focus on: Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath|
|Reading Portion(s): 1 Kings 17|
|– Important Background Information|
|– Helps you find strength in God|
|What this article teaches you|
| Faith has to go to school. Sounds surprising? Yes, it is true. Great faith is taught in step by step lessons which demand the exercise of faith. The severity of these tests increase as you graduate in each Grade. The important thing to note is that each test of faith prepares you for the next. So it is important to learn each lesson well before moving on to the next Grade.
That is why those who have never exercised faith in the small tests of life fail to exercise faith in the big tests of life. The muscles of faith cannot all on a sudden lift big weights. It has to be exercised by lifting smaller weights on a regular basis to be fit for such bigger tests. If this has been done then faith will find itself strong and ready when the big challenge comes. For it draws strength from past experiences where faith won victories. Not only that, early victories of faith store up strength in your heart for great adventures of faith in the future.
The introduction of Prophet Elijah in the Bible is abrupt and sudden. He makes a bold statement in front of King Ahab. He told him by the sanction of the Lord God of Israel, the living God whom he served, that there would not be dew or rain in the next few years except at his word.
When he had delivered the message he was committed to deliver, God’s word came to him. He was asked to go and hide in the Kerith Ravine. He was also asked to drink from the brook and was informed that God had ordered the ravens to feed him there. When Elijah obeyed God kept His word. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and in the evening. He also drank from the brook.
Sometime later the brook dried up. This was because there was no rain in the land. Again the word of the Lord came to him. This time he was asked to go immediately to Zarephath in Sidon. God told him that He had commanded a widow there to supply him with food. So Elijah made haste to go to Zarephath.
To Elijah’s surprise he found there not a rich widow but a very poor widow getting ready for her last meal! Yet Elijah asked her to bring him a small cake of bread from the little that she had and then prepare something for her and her son. Elijah also promised her by God’s word that the jar of flour will not be exhausted nor the jug of oil run dry until the day God gives rain on the land. Even though she was in trying circumstances the widow acted according to what Elijah said and as promised there was food for them every day.
As they were living thus, trusting in God’s faithfulness, tragedy struck the home. The son of the widow became ill and died. She thought that this man of God had come to bring tragedy upon her life for she thought that it was due to some sin of hers that her son died. The widow almost laid the blame squarely on Elijah for she thought that his presence there as a man of God had something to do with her son’s death.
Elijah asked her to give him his son. He did not stop to speak to her anything else. It is clear indication that he too was perplexed. He took the boy from her, carried him to the upper room where he stayed, and laid him on his bed. Then Elijah prayed; in fact he cried out to the Lord. He had only one thing to ask God: “O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”
This is a very significant statement worthy of our study. What made Elijah make such a statement? For the answer we may have to start at the beginning. First of all Elijah appears out of nowhere with bad news for the king and the people. He said that there will not be dew or rain in the next few years. Then he goes to hide in the Kerith Ravine where he drank from the brook. Then the brook dried up. No rain on the land was bad enough. Having no water to drink was worse!
As Elijah still moved forward from there he finds himself in a foreign land where he eats his daily bread in the house of a poor widow. Now even that possibility seemed to come to an end because of the death of her son. Elijah might have thought that his every adventure in faith was ending in barrenness. This was the agony in his cry to God.
Let us stop for a moment to think on what Elijah might have thought. We cannot find fault with him. He had obeyed God in every move. Yet his obedience was taking him to more severe tests of faith. To confront a king with a bad message was really a tough assignment. When that was successfully done the command was to hide. That was not a glamorous assignment. Not only that he was taught to expect food daily from the ravens. He could do nothing but wait expectantly. Now at the widows house things were moving smoothly when the death of her son came as a blow. Surely Elijah thought that he would be shown the door soon!
Elijah’s heart was so full that he could only cry out to God asking the Lord to cause the boy’s life to return to him. He also stretched himself out on the boy three times. The Lord heard his cry and the boy’s life returned to him and Elijah carried him down to his mother. The widow was now convinced that Elijah was a man of God and what he spoke was truth.
Now we have a study in faith here. It is important to note that our focus should not be on the resurrection of the child but on the lesson of faith that God taught both Elijah and the widow. The widow had been given a brilliant exposure to the dealings of God when the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry. Yet she might have had misgivings in her heart. That is why when her child was raised to life she said that she was now fully convinced as to the identity of Elijah as a man of God.
On the other hand we have Elijah. We should ask ourselves from where he got this courage to pray for the restoration of the child’s life? He was enabled to pray because God was teaching him faith all along the way. First of all it was by the Brook Kerith and then at the widow’s house. God led Elijah through these small steps of faith so that he was ready to pray for the child’s resurrection.
So this teaches us a lesson of utmost importance. It is that faith in prayer operates by degrees. You cannot have great faith operating in your prayer unless you have learned the small steps of faith through which God guides you. If Elijah had not obeyed God in the earlier steps of faith he definitely would not have been able to pray for the resurrection of the child.
When you pray for great faith to operate in your prayer, God sends you to difficulties one after the other. It is in these difficulties that your faith is tuned and fine-tuned to make it really operational for bigger needs in life. Those who choose not to pass through the beginner’s tests that God brings to their lives need not hope for great faith to come into operation during greater needs. So, those who long to have faith like that of Elijah operating in their prayer life should actually pray to God to give them small opportunities that test faith. This is true preparation for faith to become operational in prayer.
One last thing is there to be noted in this incident. Not only was Elijah strengthened to pray in faith by earlier events of his life, but also he was strengthened by this incident to be prepared for his great encounter with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. The showdown on Mount Carmel demanded still greater faith operating in prayer and the raising of the widow’s son to life was adequate preparation for the man of God.
So, faith operating in prayer not only draws strength from past lessons of faith, but it also stores up strength for future needs that will demand a greater exercise of faith.