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Principles of Powerful Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

James 5:17 tells us, "Elijah was a human being, even as we are," yet he played a role in some of the most amazing demonstrations of God's power in biblical history (see James 5:16-18, 1 Kings 17:17-24, and 1 Kings 18).

What made Elijah so effective in dealing with unbelievers, enemies, and political leaders? What kind of man can God use as He did Elijah? Six principles allowed Elijah to experience tremendous personal power and intimacy with God. Today, we will look at three.

First, we have seen Elijah's response to the Phoenician widow as a study in setting self aside and letting God take over. When the widow verbally assaults him, Elijah does not defend himself or give her a Bible lesson. He simply takes her son in his arms and tries to help her. He knows she is speaking from the pain of her son's death and the guilt she bears from her pagan beliefs. He does not need to point out her wrong thinking; he allows God to work.

Second, Elijah questioned God only in the privacy of his prayer closet. Elijah walked with God in intimacy. He knew God welcomed him to talk through his disappointments such as the young man's death; however, Elijah saved his questioning until he was alone with God. He did not further weaken the developing faith of the already struggling widow with his own questions.

A third principle Elijah followed was to persist in fervent prayer. Elijah prayed over the son three times. Elijah had no guideline for dealing with this situation, so He just kept pressing in with prayer.

Prayer: God, thank You for the example of Elijah. Help me to apply these prayer principles to my daily prayer life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16).


Facing a Crossroads

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

In 1 Kings 18, we see that Israel was at a crossroads. They had lost their awe of God. To them, He was a million miles away. They still claimed to follow Jehovah, but He was no longer a part of their daily lives. God knew that only a vivid reminder of His power would awaken these people from their spiritual sleep. So God used Elijah to bring about a turning point in their lives. With the odds stacked against him -- one man standing against hundreds of pagan leaders -- Elijah showed the strength of God.

In 1 Kings 18:22-38, the people watched a strange competition: two bull sacrifices on two separate piles of firewood. Who would be able to supernaturally light the fire -- Baal or God? Elijah, in full confidence of God's faithfulness, watched as the 450 pagan prophets tried to arouse their false god from his slumber. For hours and hours, the pagans danced around the altar, cried out to Baal, and even cut themselves with swords.

Then Elijah stepped forward. Elijah looked at God's altar, which had been neglected by the people, and carefully repaired it with 12 stones, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. Then he drenched the firewood three times with water to show that what was about to happen would be a miracle from God, not a trick on his part. As God set the wood ablaze, the people of Israel finally came to their senses. "When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, 'The Lord -- he is God! The Lord -- he is God!'" (1 Kings 18:39).

We have the resurrection power of Jesus Christ to build a fire within us, to cleanse and purify us. When we face a crossroads in our spiritual walk, we can always turn to God for the right direction.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Elijah's courage to stand up against the pagan leaders. I pray that You would help me to make the right choice when faced with a crossroads. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).


An Intense Prayer

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

When faced with trials, unbelievers like the widow in 1 Kings 17 often shake their fists at God. Sometimes, they make one of God's people, even someone close to them, the target of their anger. The widow says to Elijah in verse 18, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"

Elijah responds the way every Christian should; he does not return the anger but goes to God in prayer, relying on God's power to change the circumstances. God then uses Elijah to achieve the first resurrection in the Bible. God does this historical miracle in the home of a Baal-worshipping widow in the lowliest of places. It is a lesson that when we pray and depend on God's power, He will pour His resurrection power on the people and plans in our lives.

Elijah's intensity in prayer for the boy was effective as he literally put his entire being into intercession. God honors this type of wholehearted devotion in prayer.

Elijah also did not hesitate to ask God, "Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" (v. 20). Asking God "Why?" is not wrong. Gideon did it when faced with the Midianites. Job asked, "Why?" when tragedy struck his life. Even Jesus cried out to His Father from the cross and asked, "Why?" Yet all of these knew that God was all-powerful and could restore health, life, and victory.

With the resurrection of her son, the widow finally knew God.

Does Elijah's intensity in prayer inspire you?

Prayer: God, help me to pray with the kind of intensity that Elijah prayed with, believing that You will answer. Help me to devote more time, passion, and purpose to my prayer life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing" (Matthew 26:44).


Elijah's Blasting

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

God blessed Elijah's spiritual risk-taking by providing for his needs, but in the midst of this time of blessing, Elijah also experienced a blasting.

As Elijah spent time with the pagan widow and her son, he was a living testimony for God. But the widow's son died, and it seemed that his witnessing opportunity was lost. This woman, who had risked much for Elijah, was now at one of the lowest points in her life. Instead of seeking solace in Elijah's God, the widow cried, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" (1 Kings 17:18).

Her son's death must have taken Elijah by surprise. He had faithfully followed God and was experiencing the blessings of His faithfulness. He was right in the middle of God's will, and doing what God had commanded him. Then suddenly everything turned upside down.

Elijah must have felt devastated. But God did not give Elijah a blasting only to leave the shattered pieces on the ground. Instead, God brought restoration and healing in a way that only God Himself is capable.

After the son's death, Elijah did the only thing he could: he cried out to God in prayer (see 1 Kings 17:20-21). Elijah did not question God's plans in front of the widow -- he was wise enough not to add to her doubts. And how did God respond to Elijah's prayer? "The Lord heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived" (1 Kings 17:22).

The widow didn't realize that Elijah's God was using the situation for His glory. When she saw her resurrected son, she said, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth" (1 Kings 17:24). She witnessed firsthand the integrity of Elijah's faith under fire.

Are you experiencing a blasting? No matter what circumstances you face, God has the power to restore you. Only God can take the broken fragments of your life and turn them into something even more beautiful than before.

Prayer: God, in my time of blasting, I pray that You would take the broken pieces and use them for Your glory. Help me to have great faith under fire. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).


God's Provision

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Yesterday we read about how Elijah's provisions dried up and God commanded him to go to the undesirable city of Zarephath.

Things looked even bleaker when Elijah arrived. He found a widow out gathering sticks to make a final meal before she and her son died of starvation. All she had left was one small serving of oil and flour. However, God told Elijah that she would feed him.

Imagine how hard it must have been for Elijah to ask the woman to make a cake of bread for him before she made one for her family. Regardless, it was God's command, and Elijah obeyed. Elijah tells her, "For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land'" (1 King 17:14).

That is exactly what happened. The flour and oil were constantly replenished through God's provision, and the woman's family was fed throughout the famine.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for being my provider. Sometimes I don't see how I will have enough, but You always provide just what I need, just like You did for Elijah and the widow. In seasons of plenty and want, help me to be ever confident and reliant upon Your provision. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help" (Psalm 72:12).


And So He Went

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

Has God ever placed you in a job, a location, or a situation you never would have chosen for yourself? In 1 Kings 17:7-16 we see how God operates on many fronts to accomplish His purposes and to bless us as well.

One day while Elijah was enjoying the restful protection of the Lord at the bottom of the Kerith Ravine, the brook dried up, and his time of being fed by ravens ended. The Lord told him to go to Zarephath where a widow would feed him.

This new direction from the Lord was strange on many levels. First, Zarephath was hard hit by famine. Second, it was in the heart of Baal-worship territory and only seven miles from Jezebel's home. Even the name Zarephath meant "smelt," as the city had a reputation for being a smelly, polluted place where iron was smelted. Elijah must have wondered why he was being asked to leave his comfortable hideout and cross seventy miles of desert to walk into unpleasant and dangerous territory.

But Elijah knew that if God had given him the order, He would provide all he needed. Verse 10 says simply, "And so he went to Zarephath . . ."

Prayer: Father, help me to trust You like Elijah did and to obey Your commands, even if they don't make sense to me and even if they take me out of my comfort zone. Help me to be obedient to go wherever You call me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands" (Psalm 119:60).


In the Hidden Moments

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

All of Elijah's needs were met through God's supernatural provision. We're told in 1 Kings 17:6, "The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook."

God's children rarely seek to be hidden. However, it is in the hidden moments that men and women of faith are drawn closer to God and prepared for greater ministry. Joseph grew during his time of exile and imprisonment. Moses spent years in the desert before his greatest ministry. Esther spent a considerable amount of time being prepared to be presented to the king. Paul spent three silent years in northern Arabia before he launched his ministry.

Has God hidden you for a time? Are you feeling isolated, endangered, or unused for the Kingdom? God has His purpose for you to be exactly where you are. Use this time to refresh yourself in the Word.

Prayer: God, in this season of hiding, I pray that I would draw closer to You. Help me not to be discouraged, but to remember that You have a purpose for this season of my life. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him" (Psalm 37:7).


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