Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed…
Why did Elijah pray that "it might not rain"? Because the whole house of Israel had forsaken God, and he saw that nothing but severe judgments would bring them to penitence and obedience. Why did Elijah pray that the punishment might take this particular form? Ahab had introduced two kinds of idolatry into Israel — the worship of Ashtaroth, and the worship of Baal. Ashtaroth was a female god, the impersonation of sensuality and debauchery, and her worship was similar to that of Venus. Baal, on the other hand, was a male deity, representing the productive powers of the sun. Thus the people worshipped "the grossest sensualism and materialism." Do you not see what a deadly blow the prophet aimed at this twofold idolatry when he prayed that "it might not rain"? Let famine stalk throughout the land, let it enter the proudest palaces and the humblest cottages, what a ghastly shadow would it cast over the devotees of Ashtaroth while celebrating her unholy mysteries! What a blow to the worshippers of Baal, when, at the word of Elijah, there was neither dew nor rain for more than three years, when the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal had so little influence over the powers of nature that they could not bring down one drop of rain, nor one particle of dew, to moisten the parched earth, or to revive the perishing plants and trees. Baal worship is very powerful just now. We are told, not only by sceptics and scientists, but by Christian ministers and writers, that since the world is governed by law, to pray for rain is to imitate the ancient pagans and the modern heathen in their blind superstition. Is this true? Are we to give up praying on account of the fixedness of physical law?
I. PRAYER IS NATURAL TO MAN. Here is a mother whose child is dangerously ill, apparently suspended between life and death. What is the use of telling that mother that the life of her child depends on fixed laws, and that, therefore, it is sheer ignorance to pray? In her inmost heart she knows that the life of her child is in the hands of God, and that her hope is only in Him. Here, again, is a farmer, the greater part of whose land is raider water, and unless the floods dry up ruin will stare him in the face. If this man believe at all in God, how can he help praying? But the same God who made the earth and the whole universe also made the man, and wrought into the very texture of his being that belief in the efficacy of prayer. Is it not likely, then, that the Creator knew something about the structure of His own universe when He put that spiritual instinct into the man's soul? Is there not, therefore, at least a strong presumption that He will answer prayer in relation to the weather?
II. IT IS INCREDIBLE THAT THE MAKER OF THE UNIVERSE SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO REGULATE THE ACTION OF HIS OWN LAWS. The assertion of Professor Tyndall that God, without working a stupendous miracle, "cannot deflect towards us a single beam of the sun," is simply a gratuitous assumption. This is, indeed, "science, falsely so-called," for it rests upon no adequate basis of facts. As an infinite Spirit, God is present in every part of the universe, He is near to every atom of matter throughout infinite space, and He is therefore able to interfere effectively at any given point, or throughout any given region. And this, too, not by changing the laws which He Himself has ordained, but by working through those laws. Have not all the marvels of modern science been wrought upon this principle? Cannot any ordinary mortal deflect a beam of the sun without a miracle? and surely the same feat is possible to Omnipotence! Man cannot "make the clouds his chariot, or walk upon the winds of the wind"; but he can make the winds and the lightning his submissive servants. Nay, more. By cutting down forests and by draining low lands and marshes man has actually changed the climate of large tracts of country. Man controls Nature while acting in harmony with her laws; why, then, may not the omnipotent Creator do the same?
III. GOOD MEN, IN ALL AGES, HAVE BELIEVED THAT GOD ACTS UPON NATURE IN ANSWER TO PRAYER. Read the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple, and you can have no doubt as to his opinion upon the subject (1 Kings 8:35, 36). Take, again, the case of Elijah. When he prayed, first of all, that "it might not rain," and then afterwards, when the people repented, that rain might be sent, could he give a stronger proof of his belief in the power of prayer with regard to the phenomena of nature? Both these men, too, evidently believed that God has reserved to Himself the right of turning nature to moral uses. Further, does not the Bible give many instances in which God used famine as a rod to chastise His people when they rebelled against Him, and sent plenty when they repented?
IV. BOTH IN ANCIENT AND MODERN TIMES GOD HAS REPEATEDLY ANSWERED PRAYER FOR RAIN. If we believe the history of Elijah, there is an end to the whole controversy; for if God on only one occasion sent rain in answer to prayer, there can be no reason why He should not do so any number of times. Our Lord, at any rate, believed this history, for He took its truthfulness for granted when preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. Coming down to modern times, it is hard to read the story of the Spanish Armada without believing its destruction to have been the result of direct Divine interference. One of the medals struck to commemorate the event bore the inscription, "Afflavit Dens, et disipantur" — "God blew, and they were scattered." Many since that time have prayed for favourable weather, and have believed that God heard them.
Parallel VersesKJV: Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.