Of all the prophets we meet in Scripture, Elijah is probably the most formidable. Every time he makes an appearance, the power of God is channeled through him in astounding displays intended to awaken the idolatrous hearts of Israel to the lordship of Yahweh.
He confronts King Ahab about the idolatry in the land, he declares an oncoming drought and prays against the rain, lives in a ravine while fed by a raven; later he provides for himself, a Sidonian widow, her son, and then prayerfully raises her son after he suddenly dies. In a showdown with the prophets of Baal, he calls down fire from Heaven, an event that moves Israel’s hearts back towards the LORD as well as garnering Elijah with authority to order the execution of Baal’s 450 prophets; he then persistently and expectantly prays for the rain and, before it arrived, tells Ahab to head home before his chariot gets stuck in the mud.
Every time I read these moments, I cannot help but wish I could live a life as powerful as this. I want to calm the storms and call the fire; I want to boldly confront the misleaders around us. I want to have a confidence that can look past the everyday physical hindrances. I want to be Super-Christian!
So it’s always with a deflating energy I read Elijah’s next moment. After hearing her prophets had been executed, the wicked Queen Jezebel sent a message to Elijah saying “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.”
Elijah became afraid and ran. Alone in the wilderness, the power-prophet who relied on LORD’s provision for three years, who prayed for a child’s resurrection, and prayed down fire and rain from Heaven now prayed for death. “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.”
I struggle to read this story without feeling disappointed in Elijah. He’s God’s superman, a prophet well acquainted with God’s power; how could this be his reaction? But if I’m honest, I think it’s really just my own insecurity at having been confronted with the truth that, eventually, we all drop the ball; I know I have many times. Or it’s this scary reality that if not even one of God’s most powerful prophets can face a threat faithfully, what hope do I have? Whenever I’m hit with these insecurities, they come with a sense of finality, like this is all there is and there’s no hope for a next time.
But God’s response to Elijah declares otherwise. Elijah went to sleep in despair, but awoke to hope—to bread and water. He may have abandoned himself, but God hadn't abandoned him. Apparently God disagreed with Elijah’s conclusion that “it is enough”. God gave him food, allowed him to rest, and then commanded him in a divine whisper to return to the land and the work.
None of us can ever be the “Super Christian” we romantically dream up in our heads; since that mostly focuses us on being impressive, it’s probably not a goal worth pursuing anyway. As we head into the New Year, many of us are making resolutions and goals designed to be better this year—to be better at reading the Bible, at devotion, at being on mission. My suggestion—don’t focus on trying to be super. What made Elijah powerful wasn't determination or drive, but prayer, the intimate continuous conversation with God. Elijah was always at his best when he was in prayer. Prayer brought him to and bathed him in God’s empowering presence, preparing him for the coming moments that would need that power in order to reveal the LORD inviting His people to return to Him.
Because prayer brings us before a God who is set apart, prayer will always set us apart. It sanctifies us for the purpose of revealing Him to a blind world that needs to see the One who saves. I don’t know if we can be super, but we can be sanctified; super exalts only ourselves, but sanctified makes much of God. In this New Year, make much of God in your prayers so much can be made of Him in your lives.