It seems to me that there are a number of concerns which hold people up when it comes to prayer. There is the concern of not being holy enough. If this is our concern then our thought is that our lives are too messy and complicated for God and that we need to clean ourselves up before going to Him with our prayer. We considered that concern in a previous post.
Here is another common concern: I'm nobody special.
Have you ever thought that? You might say, "I'm no spiritual giant! I'm not Moses, or Mother Theresa, or Saint Patrick! I'm not one of the Apostles. I'm not a hero of the faith like them. Surely their prayers are heard more clearly and are more effective."
I have allowed thoughts like these to stop me from going before my God. And yet, though I've sometimes been reluctant to pray for this reason, God has never been reluctant to offer encouragement to me through His Word. Consider these few verses found in the New Testament Letter of James 5.17-18:
Elijah was a man with a nature just like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and 6 months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore it's fruit.
These few verses provide us with a few thoughts to chew on. First, who is Elijah? Second, what is the big deal about praying for rain? Third, who cares about any of this and what does it have to do with me? Let's consider these questions in order.
Elijah was a prophet. A regular man who believed in the Living God and had faith to do what he was asked. There was nothing superhuman about Elijah. He was human, just like you and I, and yet, his faithful prayer accomplished a number of astounding feats.
I like the way one thinker puts it:
[James] urges us to consider the example of the prophet Elijah. There can be no doubt that Elijah’s praying accomplished much. He prayed, and there was no rain; and he prayed again, and there was rain. But the key thing is that he prayed! And that is the key thing for us! Are we praying? We have a tendency to dismiss the example of Elijah and the examples of others who were mighty in prayer. We think they were super-saints, and prayer was in some way different for them. But James reminds us that Elijah was made out of the same stuff as all the rest of us (v. 17). The secret to his praying was not that he was a superman. The secret was that he prayed!*
Lastly, what is all this fuss about rain? It's always best to go straight to the source and read the story for ourselves. You can read the most exciting part of Elijah's story here. I hope you do.
So, what does this have to do with us? The point is simple: Elijah (and Moses, and Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham, and Saint Patrick, and William Wilberforce, and so many other people who have been renowned as heroes of the Christian faith) are all common people with a nature like ours.
Prayer that works has nothing to do with being somebody special. There aren't any tricks, or magic words, or anything of that sort which increases the likelihood of our prayers being heard. What matters is that we actually pray and do so with faith that the One we are praying to can do something about it.
One of the high schools I attended had a poster hanging on the gymnasium wall which stated, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I think that thought applies here as well in that 100% of the prayers that don't get prayed don't get answered.
Imagine how much will be different in our lives, relationships, culture, and world when we come to God just as we are, as common everyday people, and faithfully ask and trust Him to do astounding things!
Friends, let's not try to be someone we aren't or worry about not being someone we were never meant to be. Let's just pray.
*Ellsworth, R. (2009). Opening up James (p. 163). Leominster: Day One Publications.