I was once summoned to interview for a really prestigious appointment in a Cheese Factory. The details of the interview are a little hazy now, though I do recall the big boss leaning back expansively in his swivel-leather armchair and asking how long I’d been interested in dairy products. I really should have said, “Since I was a baby” but, sadly, those insights come too late for insertion into the conversation, don’t they? That’s why I became a writer, where those realities of life need not intrude.
But dominating the interview was the poster above the manager’s head which read “The main thing is that the main thing is the main thing.” It stuck in my mind, I can truthfully say, for the rest of my adult life. I nearly failed the interview just thinking about it.
The recollection helps me understand the prophecy spoken over the unborn life of the one who would be called “John the Baptist.” The angel of the Lord prophesied and said John would go before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” So what did he mean exactly? What is the spirit and power of Elijah? It’s, surely, the main thing. The one thing. The central dominating principle of a life lived one way.
“Purity of heart”, said a profound Soren Kierkkegaard, is “to will one thing.”
So the phrase, in the most general terms, refers to the focus, direction, and the total emphasis of Elijah’s and John’s life. In other words: What were they passionate about? What was the emphasis and flavour with which they gave themselves to life?
James (5:17) suggested that the answer lies in the earnestness of Elijah’s prayer-life. It has been truly said that if you want to know what a believer is passionate about then you must listen to his prayers. According to James, then, Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. For three and a half years, Elijah prayed that it would not rain in Israel, so that the people would come to acknowledge their sin and turn to God. The drought was to prepare the ground for repentance. The text in James doesn’t simply say, “he prayed,” but that he prayed, “earnestly.” He was so moved by their sad condition that he earnestly asked God, “Do whatever it takes to get this people’s attention!”
Do you see it? The spirit of Elijah was stirred and grieved with his people’s need for salvation. He was passionate about it. David prayed in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” I think that among other things a right spirit means one like Elijah had, that was tremendously burdened for those lost from God, those who were far away, who didn’t count God in on their decisions. There’s a line in the Lord of the Rings: “There is a darkness that is growing.” I may be safe enough for the moment, but it is growing and it is coming. Too much of the church’s energy is squandered on back-biting, infighting, defensive reactionism and one-upmanship. The passion of Elijah was directed outward, towards a lost people and the vital need for a mighty move of God. “God! Do what it takes!” It almost cost him his life. This “main thing” became the clarion-call of John’s life and death.
The “power of Elijah” does not here refer to miracles, I think, but rather to that word “earnestly.” He prayed earnestly, and his prayer-life had great power. James specifically notes that Elijah was nobody special, just as normal a human being as ever scratched his nose and felt stupid, and yet his prayer-life was spectacular. And this is the prelude to the coming of the Messiah. John was clearing the way, wielding a machete through a jungle of undergrowth, calling the people back to a neglected God, demanding justice from kings and governors and declaring that God was on the move.
Move in the passion of my prayers.
Enable me to pray aright, to see what is needed in my nation, in my day.
Let me pray and live in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Let your kingdom come.
Let your will be done, right here in this place, as it is in heaven.
- The Lottery of Life (tithebarn.wordpress.com)
- What is the Spirit of Elijah? (truthiknow.wordpress.com)
- I Thank God for Prayer (blessedaaron08.wordpress.com)
- The Power of Say-er – The Power of Prayer (kswptim.wordpress.com)
- Pray like you mean it. (itsog.wordpress.com)
- James 5:14 Prayer for Healing | On Sunday Morning (sgclife.org)
- Where Is the Lord God of Elijah? (overabove.wordpress.com)
- Pray like you mean it. (intheserviceofgod.wordpress.com)