After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” and he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God. Have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”
1 Kings 17:17-24
There are many lessons we can learn from this and what I want to focus upon is just Elijah’s prayer. In verse 17 we read that, “After this,” after the Lord had miraculously provided food for the widow, for her son and for Elijah, the Lord had been blessing them by providing food in the midst of a drought that was so severe due to the lack of rain. It was at this point that things seemed to be going well that the widow’s son died, an unexpected tragic turn of events. The widow was devastated by this. She had nowhere else to turn, there was nothing she could do about this herself. There was nothing she could look to in terms of the gods of her land. The only one she could turn to at this time was Elijah and to Elijah’s Lord and his God. So she brought this child to Elijah and then we read of Elijah’s prayer, an intercessory prayer. He was pleading to God that God would restore the life of this dead boy.
When we think of Elijah’s prayer for the restoration of life, this is a great prayer of faith. According to a number of commentators, up until this point in history, God had not restored anyone to life. There was no one who had died and come back to life again. So Elijah had no example, no past example of God having done this to draw upon and give him encouragement to pray. He had seen at times and knew that God would preserve life, that was an encouragement, and he knew that God would heal people. But never had there been a time when someone was brought back to life. Yet, even though there was no example, Elijah prayed and he prayed with faith. He prayed with great faith trusting God that God would do this miracle by restoring the life of this boy.
So what is in his prayer, the great prayer of faith that Elijah brings to God? There is nothing new here for us, but I think there is some good reminders for us as we come to pray. A couple things that I see in his prayer, first, Elijah’s prayer is a prayer that acknowledges that God is sovereign. As Elijah comes to God, to his Lord, he acknowledges that it is God that brought this calamity, the death of the boy. In verse 20 we read that he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn by killing her son?” Elijah knows that this wasn’t some random illness that led to the death of this boy. It’s not just some happenstance. It was not out of the control of God. It was actually God who was in control of this. It’s actually God who was the one that brought the death of this child.
We need to remember when we come to pray that we never must lose sight of the fact that God is in control of everything. He is sovereignly working out his plans and his purposes. Even when things don’t go according to the way that we would desire. Even when it goes tragically against our wishes. Calamity comes into our life when there is great grief and pain and sorrow. Yet even in these circumstances God is in control.
I think that this truth also will help us to know that and because of that we have hope. Because if he is in control of these things then he is sovereignly able to hear our prayers and respond to them. I think it is easy at times to acknowledge, well, God is in control of nature. We acknowledge he is in control of the weather, he sends the sun and the rain. We know that is outside of our control. But there are other things that come into our lives where I think we still tend to hang on to some measure of control. But ultimately it is God who is the one who is truly in control. At times we think we are in control of providing the food for ourselves, but ultimately it is God that gives us our daily bread. At times we think we are in control of our health. And certainly we need to do things and be faithful but ultimately it is God who is in control of our life, in control of our very breath. He has numbered our days, the hours the moments that we have, they are all appointed by God. We need to remember that and know that we will not die before our appointed time. But we also know that there will be a time when we will die. Even in all of this, we can have confidence and trust and hope knowing that God is sovereign and therefore we can come to him with our prayers. Prayers of faith that God will hear our prayers and answer our prayers.
So in this prayer of Elijah’s we see him coming to God knowing that God is sovereignly in control even in the death of this boy. Also we see Elijah’s prayer is a prayer that is fervent and passionate. In verse 20 and 21 the word that is used to describe Elijah’s prayers where he is crying out to God, Elijah is earnestly calling out to God, to the Lord. He is not just speaking words to God but he is pleading, begging, as though there is a measure of absolute desperation coming to God with this urgent, critical need, literally a need of life and death. His prayer is a matter that is a matter of the heart. His emotions are stirred up by it, his love and care for this little boy. We see that with Elijah, it’s not just his words but he throws his entire self into this and it’s symbolized by his spreading his body upon this child.
So when we come to pray I think it is a reminder for us to not only remember that God is sovereign as we pray to him, but also when we do pray we should come with earnest fervent cries to God, pleading to him that he would hear and answer our prayers. In Elijah’s prayer also I think we see that Elijah’s prayer is a prayer of persistent prayer. We read here that he stretched himself out upon the child three times and cried to the Lord. Elijah didn’t just pray once and okay, I prayed and I leave it to the Lord. No, he comes again, not once, not twice, but three times he comes to the Lord praying to God, stretching himself out, crying out to God urgently, persistently coming to God. He did not give up with his prayers.
Then finally we see that it is a specific prayer. In the ESV Elijah asked that the life of the child would come back into him again. In another translation it reads, “Let this child’s soul come into him again.” I think it is an interesting acknowledgement that Elijah knew exactly what was needed. This child was dead, his soul had been separated from his body and Elijah knew that for him to live his soul needed to be returned to him. So he prays to God, God alone who is in control of life and death. When we die our soul returns to God and it is God alone who can then cause the soul to go back into this child so Elijah is specifically asking God to do this great miracle of returning the child’s soul and restoring his life.
I know at times we pray for general requests but it is also good to remember when we pray that we pray specifically bringing specific requests to God. We see a God who is sovereign, we see that Elijah understands that and that is part of his prayer. Elijah prays with fervency and passion crying out to God. Elijah prays persistently coming again and again to God, not giving up. Elijah prays specifically with specific requests to God and God heard and he answered Elijah’s prayer. In verse 22 we read, “The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah and the life of the child came into him again and he revived. Hopefully this example of intercessory prayer, a prayer of faith of Elijah is crying out to God to restore the life of this son of the widow of Zarephath and God’s answer to this prayer. Hopefully that should encourage us to come with boldness to God, praying to God to do great things, things that are impossible for us but for God alone it’s possible to do these things. It is God alone who can do and answer our prayers.