“Elias 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. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit” (James 5:17,18).
“Elias” is the New Testament name for Elijah, the great prophet who lived during the darkest days of Israel’s apostasy, when Ahab and Jezebel ruled the land and had turned it over to the worship of the demonic god, Baal. “Elijah” means “Jehovah is God,” a most appropriate name for a prophet of the true God in a nation and time given over to paganism.
Elijah suddenly appeared before King Ahab with the ominous prophecy: “As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (I Kings 17:1). This was not presumptuous. In his commentary, James said Elijah “prayed earnestly” before he spoke, and that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
This remarkable prophecy was miraculously fulfilled. There was no rain in all the land of Israel for 3-1/2 years (as also confirmed by Christ in Luke 4:25) until Elijah defeated all the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:17–45).
Yet James reminds us that Elijah was “a man of like passions as we,” and that both ends of the miracle—the onset and termination of the long, nation-wide drought—were simply answers to Elijah’s two fervent prayers.
James has much to say about how we also can receive wonderful answers to prayer. In addition to praying fervently, we must “ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:6). But, faith must be expressed by action (as when Elijah confronted Ahab) for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Finally, if we “ask, and receive not,” it may be that we “ask amiss,” wanting the answer only for ourselves (James 4:3). HMM