By: Gabriela Yareliz
Welcome to another day. A new variant. A new state of emergency. More fear being vomited onto us. (If only we reacted to it as the vomit that it is). That’s what seems to be heaped on us, like a bad record on repeat. It’s the day after the worst day of the stock market in 2021. But, I am not here to talk about that, specifically. You get plenty of that noise everywhere. Instead, I am here to try to articulate something that filled me with hope, this morning.
I want to talk to you about James chapter 5. Lizzie and I are finishing up a Bible study called Make Your Home a Haven. It has nothing to do with making your home a haven (ha), but each time we open the Word, we walk away blessed regardless of the off-theme Scriptures featured.
Some of the headings in James 5 include, “Patience in Suffering” and “The Prayer of Faith.” These are topics that feel close to us in these weird uncertain times. I guess all times are uncertain, even when we don’t realize it. But we really feel it, now.
I know there are families struggling. Countries struggling. People on fixed incomes not sure how to afford that next grocery haul. People of valor who have been dismissed from long-held jobs, pensions lost. People who are sick and alone. People who live in countries where people are being taken off to quarantine camps or being locked down by national armies and police. I see you. We see you. Overall, I think many are grappling with a sense of deep loss and grief. That said, I see so many miracles happening around me. I almost said small miracles– but in my opinion, there is no such thing as a small miracle. All miracles are holiness exploding in our midst. They shake us to our very core. Their light temporarily leaves us blinded to all other distractions. They are never forgotten.
The tail end of verse 16 states, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” No matter how hopeless your situation feels, don’t stop praying. When you don’t know what to do with something, just take it to Jesus and offer it with open hands. He doesn’t ask you to solve everything that comes your way or to light up every dark corner. He reminds us that is His job. Our job is to believe He can.
It’s comforting to hear this. We know that God hears us, and it’s incredible to remember what a tool prayer is. I read somewhere that if you say that all you can do for someone is pray for them, then you have the wrong idea of what prayer is and what it is capable of changing. Prayer is not the last line of defense, but the first. Prayer summons real divine power. Real divine power disrupts. The real divine power comes from a God who is and will remain undefeated.
In challenging times, where oftentimes we pray persistently, it’s easy to focus on our anguish, our fear of the unknown, our fear of mere mortals or simply the unfavorable circumstances staring back at us, unblinking. We focus on all the useless things, instead of focusing on an all-powerful God. Today, Jenifer Daley said, “Jesus is still the light of the world. Bless His name for He is good.” We forget. We so easily forget. The anxiety that wraps our souls to suffocation reminds us of all we forget too often. Our fears push our heads underwater in a place where we can’t swim, but prayer is the hand outstretched. God never rejects the call for help. His hand is the one that lifts us to life. To new heights. To all we hoped was possible but could not achieve on our own.
The King of the universe loves us. He seeks us out. He fights for us. He saves us. Let me rephrase this– The King of the universe loves you. He seeks you out. He fights for you. He saves you.
The verses that caught my eye were:
“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”James 5:17-18
Elijah has an interesting story. He plugs into the story of Israel at a time when they have an evil king and queen, and the people are worshipping idols. The kingdom is cloaked in darkness, though they didn’t feel it or know it. If you know anything about Elijah’s story, it’s that there is a God-ordained drought when Elijah is prophet because God is displeased by Israel’s turning its back on Him. In fact, James points to how the drought came about– the fact that Elijah prayed fervently that it might not rain, not for three hours or three days, but for three years God answered this prayer. James stresses that Elijah was a man with a “nature like ours.” We see his flaws in his story like any other person in Scripture, apart from Jesus who had none. Elijah has his own moments of isolation, depression and he flees for his life out of fear after tremendous victory. Queen Jezebel wanted his head. (And she was a crazy one).
The story of Elijah would be incomplete if we don’t remember when he went to the mount to show the people who the true God is; he prays for fire to come down from heaven and consume a sopping wet sacrifice. Then, he prays for rain.
Elijah was flawed and a loner. He wasn’t in the “in crowd,” but God chose him. Elijah was a man like the rest of us, and when he prayed, God honored his faith. Sometimes, we wonder where our prayers go or we pray so often we aren’t sure if we should keep asking. At times, we fail to realize that some of our prayers don’t just affect ourselves, but they send a message to and impact the community at large. James gives us a picture of a God who honors the faith of imperfect people who pray and strive to honor Him with their lives.
God answers prayers through supernatural interventions. It’s His M.O. I would dare you to think about Elijah’s story even past this point. Elijah was faithful. Despite his imperfections, exhaustion, his deep sadness, he never bows down to evil. He is a friend of God. Scripture tell us Elijah was taken to heaven without seeing death (ironic, given that death by the hand of psycho Queen Jezebel was what he most feared). Talk about leaving this dump.
Why do I tell you all of this? Yeah, after reading those verses in James 5, my mind sort of wandered down the timeline of Elijah’s story. Elijah lived in some crazy times with a dark and for lack of a more appropriate word, evil leadership. He lived in a time where to stand for truth meant standing alone. The country was off worshipping created things rather than God. As we have discussed, he was as flawed as they come, but the man had some serious cojones. As I was looking at his life and his daring way of approaching God, I was reminded of the song from MOSAIC MSC that says, “Eyes on you; you have all my attention. Eyes on you; you hold all my affection. Always you. Forever, I will keep my eyes on you.”
This reminds me of Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:12, where he prays and says, “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.”
Whether we feel like we are sinking in the sea like Simon Peter, or whether we are walking through the sea like Moses. Whether we see a sea on one side and Pharaoh’s army on the other side; or whether we know an army is coming and we don’t know where to look. Whether we sit in brokenness like Elijah in hiding or whether we are at the mount like Elijah kneeling before a consumed sacrifice– we keep our eyes fixed on Him. If there is an answer to any of life’s troubles, if there is a way to keep faith steady when the world around us is being consumed by a tornado of insanity, if there is a way to know He is listening and reaching out to grab us– it’s by keeping a narrow, undistracted gaze fixed on Him.
If you haven’t felt it yet, you will someday. Things will feel like they are disintegrating around you. But remember this: when you feel it, fix your gaze, and tell Him, “Eyes on you. Always you. Forever, I will keep my eyes on you.”
May your prayer of faith make you rise like a phoenix. May you see His holiness and love in your life. May His light illuminate every darkness. Joy comes in the morning. Gaze steady.