The Expository Files


“A Man with a Nature Like Ours”

James 5:17

“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”
(James 5:17)

We are often intimidated by Bible characters. They seem too good, too holy, too self-controlled for us. Their deeds seem superhuman, their perspective too great. Yet as James encourages us to effective, fervent praying, he reminds us of a man who prayed this way—and that “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours”(James 5:17), yet did amazing things through prayer. Elijah was a regular guy—a mere man, like us—yet he shows us what people and us can do when we pray in faith.

Regular people like us can pray earnestly. This is the kind of prayer James is encouraging: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”(James 5:16). The reason God granted Elijah’s prayer was not because He had another interesting chapter to add to the Bible, or because He owed Elijah a special favor. He was a regular guy—yet when regular, righteous people pray earnestly, God acts! “Earnestly” is not to be overlooked—it describes a spirit of continual, energetic, enthusiastic, faith-based praying. It is not easily dissuaded, nor does it forget what is asked. It sees prayer as more than a throwaway, last-chance attempt at getting what we need. Elijah was no superhuman—just a man—yet he prayed earnestly, and received what he requested.

Regular people like us can pray in the will of God. The amazing thing about Elijah’s prayer was that it was simply a prayer for God to fulfill His word. God had warned that if His people were wicked, “I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze” (Lev 26:19). Elijah prayed for drought to fulfill God’s purpose—to break the stubborn will of God’s wicked people. Why would God not answer a prayer like this—which is His express will? We too can pray that more be saved (1 Tim 2:4-5), that Christians be holy (1 Thess 4:3-4), and that truth grow and be accepted (2 Thess 3:1)—and know that we are praying exactly God’s will!

Regular people like us can see prayer answered. Elijah prayed for drought—“and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months”. Elijah prayed for it to rain again—“and he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18). If we look by faith, we can see the working of God in answer to our prayers—although perhaps a different answer than we expect. The question is: Do we have the faith to pray, truly believing that God will alter the world—making a drought—simply because we earnestly ask Him? And when He does, do we have the humility to acknowledge it is not us who did it, but the Lord? The world may have said this was an ancient “El Niño,” but Christians know the truth—that God was answering a faithful man’s prayer. How many more seemingly natural ways has God answered prayer for faithful people in our world?

Do we have the courage and faith to pray like Elijah—an earnest prayer, centered on God’s will, laced with faith that God will act? He was no superman—and we can be like him if we have faith like him!

By Jacob Hudgins
From Expository Files 17.1; January 2010