Then he said to his servant, “Go up and look toward the sea.”
So he went up, looked, and said, “There’s nothing.”
Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”
On the seventh time, he reported, “There’s a cloud as small as a man’s hand coming up from the sea.” Then Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Get your chariot ready and go down so the rain doesn’t stop you.’ ” - 1 Kings 18:43-44
Elijah was a prophet of God, a man motivated and directed by one thing: the spoken Word of the Lord. That was his anchor and that was the source of his faith. If God spoke it, it must come to pass. Elijah was given his word from God in verse 1 of 1 Kings 18 to announce to King Ahab the end of a three year long famine. After the famous encounter with the prophets of Baal where God responds with fire from heaven, the time comes for Elijah to bring about the fulfilment of the Word from God. This word was that the famine was to come to an end. As he prays, we see him send his servant seven times to check the progress of the Word’s fulfilment. After the seventh time, a small cloud appears which later on we see turns into a complete downpour!
I believe Elijah’s faith and persistence in this passage is directly tied to his confidence in what he heard from God in the beginning. Persistent prayer will always be a challenge for us if we are constantly second guessing whether what we heard was actually from God. In Ephesians 5:17 it says to “not be unwise, but know what the will of God is.” The design of prayer is not a way to discover the will of God but a response to the will of God. As believers we can know through relationship with the Holy Spirit and the written Word what God wants to happen in situations we find ourselves in. As we grow in confidence with what we hear, our faith grows and things begin to happen, which we never thought possible! In Hebrews it says that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of the Lord.” When God speaks a word to you, its purpose is to strengthen and fortify your faith. Just because a word you may have heard from God seems to be taking more time to be fulfilled than what you anticipated, never stop praying and declaring what you heard Him say.
It is equally important to look for progress as well as the answers to your prayers! For Elijah a progressive answer was enough for him. He wasn’t waiting for the rainstorm before he celebrated, he praised God for the small cloud that appeared. Even Jesus in Mark 8 prayed twice for a blind man to see. After asking if the man could see anything, he responded saying he could see “people like walking trees.” So Jesus prayed again and the man’s sight was fully restored.
As we pray we must ask ourselves what our faith is anchored to. Is it based on our own desires and preferences or is it based on the spoken word from God we’ve received? As our prayers begin to agree with God’s heart and will, we will find ourselves praying with more endurance and faith than ever before, celebrating each step to its ultimate fulfilment!
For you personally, this may look something like this: Start your times of prayer by thanking God for the words you have received from him in this season. Thank him for his grace spoken and declared over you, your family, and friends. Agree with his heart and his desire to see what he wants fulfilled in your life. Ask him to reveal how he’s bringing about the answer to this promise and write down the progress you're seeing. End your times by celebrating and worshipping the Lord.