We are studying the life of Elijah in 1 Kings. The first thing we learn of him is that he was so upset with the sin and idolatry of the land that he prays that God would keep his covenant promises and bring drought on the land for Israel's disobedience. This was no mean-spirited prayer but one in which he hoped would bring some measure of revival. I wondered as he prayed that no rain would come if he thought about the fact that this was going to mean that his life was going to be affected as well.
How different from many of the prayers offered up today where we ask God to bless our economy and God bless America materially as if this is really what our country needs. I wonder if there were saints in New Orleans a few years ago who were asking God to shake up that city so that the lost would have to face their mortality. I wonder as they might have prayed that they thought about the fact that they could get caught up in God's warning judgments along with everyone else. No doubt God used Katrina to further the gospel and give churches the opportunity to spread the gospel. The sad fact remains that once things get back "to normal" the city couldn't wait to host Mardi Gras and in fact seem to be proud of such an ungodly heritage.
No doubt there have been saints in Japan praying that God would shake things up and they probably never dreamed what God had in his mind and that many times the saints get swept up in these things. But this is one way the Lord allows us to set an example to the lost and to create opportunities to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Like Elijah, our prayers should be more about such opportunities regardless of the personal cost to us and less about everyone being healthy, happy, employed and problem free. I know this is a hard pill for our flesh to swallow but it seems apparent that this is what mattered most to Elijah. And it isn't without New Testament precedent.
In Revelation 8-9 we read of 7 trumpet warning judgments. God was going to send all sorts of natural disasters, spiritual darkness, wars and all kinds of afflictions to warn this world that at some point life is going to end and judgment awaits. The last couple of verses of chapter nine reveal that this is mostly going to go ignored by this world, Rev 9:20 "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, Rev 9:21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts."
Perhaps even more interesting is what we read of at the beginning of chapter 8. Before all this happens we read of the continual prayers of the saints coming up before the throne of God. Rev 8:4 "And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Rev 8:5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake."
It seems that the prayers of the saints were directly involved in the disasters on the earth both natural and man made. I don't believe the idea is that we are to be praying for human suffering and misery but we are to be praying that the gospel has the opportunity to go forth and save souls and comfort, ease and prosperity has never been a friend to the gospel. At the very least Elijah's prayer, which James uses as an example to us of godly prayer, should give us pause to examine what we are praying for and the motivation behind our prayers.