while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4
When I start my spiritual fast at the beginning of the year, I’m always excited about the possibility of spending focused time with God in prayer for a sustained period of time. However, it does not take long before hunger pain begins to dampen my enthusiasm to pray. Saturdays are particularly more challenging because I do not have distractions from work. So, I am forced to focus on prayer despite the hunger pain. I have learned prayer should not be based on how I feel, but on what I believe. When I believe the Spirit is enabling me to pray, the hunger pain subsides, and I can focus on prayer. When I prioritize emotion over faith, it is difficult for me to sustain the energy to focus on prayer.
Prayer can be an emotional spiritual exercise. However, we should not allow our emotions to influence our prayer life. Communing with God in prayer is a product of our faith in Him. We pray because we believe, and not because of our feelings. Yes, there will be times when a believer may not feel like praying. But we do because of our faith in God.
In today’s text, the prophet Elijah is sitting under the broom tree and praying that he might die. Why is such a spiritual giant praying that he might die? He is depressed because Jezebel wanted to kill him. This is the same Elijah who was renowned for his spiritual gravitas. Even King Ahab was afraid of Elijah. He prayed down fire upon a Bull at an altar without physical wood and fire. Yet this same spiritual giant is praying that God might kill him.
Such emotion-driven prayer is common in the Bible. Though they are never answered by God, they reflect the struggle of human beings to separate the emotion we are to invest in prayer, from praying out of emotion. I have the same struggle as everyone else in that regard. Therefore, I have learned that my prayers should be faith-driven instead of emotion-focused when I am struggling with the issues of life. For example, when my mother and father died, I prayed with the faith that I will see them again in heaven when I transition to glory. I did not allow the emotion of losing my parents to dictate what I say to God in prayer.
By faith, I know that God is too wise to make any mistake, and I believe to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So, even in mourning, I do not pray out of despair but hope because faith is the substance of things hoped for. When I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease, I was frustrated because of the symptoms of that disease. When I prayed about it the Lord reminded me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I heard the Spirit of God telling me Meniere was the thorn in my flesh and I had to trust God to help me deal with it. Therefore, I have not necessarily prayed that God will heal me of it because I believe God will use that physical ailment to His glory; and He has. I have since been able to minister to other people diagnosed with Meniere looking for hope and the strength to cope with their condition.
Elijah should have remembered that if God can rain down fire on a water-soaked bull to demonstrate His power, He can certainly protect him from Jezebel. If he had, he would have prayed the following: Lord, Jezebel wants to kill me. But I believe you are greater and more powerful than Jezebel. So please protect me from this wicked woman as I continue to do the work you have called me to do. He certainly wouldn’t be praying about dying.
Human emotions are misleading. They are not grounded in the truth of God and His promises. They cannot be trusted for spiritual purposes. But faith helps us to trust, endure, persevere, and praise even in hardships.
Questions for Person Reflection
How do you pray when you are emotionally afflicted?
Why is it important to pray by faith and not by emotions?
Prayer- Most Holy and All-Wise God, I thank you for reminding me of the power of faith so I can be effectual in my petitions and intercessions. May I continue to approach your throne of grace by faith through prayer so I can find grace and mercy in my times of need regardless of how I feel!