Think of the most powerful prayer warrior you know… and add 100 times the faith. Think of the most accurate prophet you have personally known… and add signs and wonders to their ministry. Now you are getting close to Elisha’s faith, because this is a man who raised the dead… while dead (2 Kings 13:20-21), and I have no idea how that happened.
Elisha was a man willing to follow God on a heartbeat (1 Kings 19:19-21) and who never had a problem making big requests from God. He prayed for double the ministry of Elijah, his mentor, he prayed for Israel to be defended against attacking enemies, he prayed for eyes to be opened and eyes to be blinded and purified water at a spring. His faith helped a widow have money and a couple have a child (whom he later raised from the dead by his prayers). In 2 Kings 13, it says that Elisha was sick and nearing his death, when the king of Israel, King Joash (also translated Jehoash) visited Elisha and the last prophecy of this strong man of faith is recorded. What can we take from this recorded encounter to apply to our faith and prayers?
The phrase was repeated, but for a different reason.
When Elisha was first called as a prophet, his mentor, was taken up in a chariot of fire, and as it happened, Elisha cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Interestingly enough, he was not saying he saw angels, but he was talking about the army of God, quite possibly an anguish that the great prophet of God who fought against the evil of Jezebel and Ahab was no longer around to force that held evil at bay. But when the tears stopped, he choose (literally and spiritually) to ‘pick up the mantle of the prophet.’ He did not allow godly warriors to die out with the last generation, but chose to make Elijah’s faith his own. However, in this scene at Elisha’s deathbed, the same phrase does not show the next generation picking up the mantle. It is a cry of despair, as if the King did not know what to do if Elisha was not there to help and pray.
So many times we end our journey as King Joash did, instead of as Elisha did. We are used to our mentors and spiritual leaders taking the fight against evil, but a person is never too young to begin making a difference for God. Let us determine to take up the mantle and the cry to fight for God’s side, as we seek to follow God no matter what He calls us to.
The prophecy was given, but the king had to make it happen.
As soon as Elisha hears the king’s cry, he tells Joash to grab a bow and arrows, then to shoot out the east window. After he does this, Elisha prophecies “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram… You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek…” Here, Elisha gives the promise of complete victory and it sounds like a done deal. However, a few verses later, Elisha tells the King that totally defeating them depended on Joash’s actions. How often do we take a promise from God, and forget the condition that was placed with that promise?
Spiritually, this means that we have to pay attention to what God says before we claim a promise. For instance, one of my favorite passages is found in Isaiah 58, where God promises, “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
But what are the conditions of these rich promises? “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” Aw, and see this is where we all want to tune out, because we want the prophecy of victory and blessings and favor from God, but we do not want to have to work for it. Let us determine to have the perseverance to do the work of God as your faith believes in the promises of God.
The call was made, but will we answer?
Elisha was extremely persistent. When Elijah was about to die, he tried to convince Elisha to turn back several times, but Elisha refused (2 Kings 2). He persisted when he brought the young boy back to live, using his own body heat and praying for hours, the miracle that happened that day was due to his persistent faith. As Elisha’s last act, he made sure to drive home the idea that persistence make a difference in our prayers. After King Joash shot the first arrow out of the window and Elisha prophesied the king’s victory over the Aramerians, Elisha tells him to take arrows and strike the ground with them (2 Kings 13:18). Joash does it 3 times and then stops. This infuriates Elisha, because King Joash did not chose to use all his arrows to do what Elisha said, and for this reason, Joash would only have victory 3 times instead of complete victory.
Consider the symbolism of the arrows as prayer. The first arrow was the promise of victory through prayer if we have faith to follow God. This probably is a generational curse or addiction being broken. The other arrows, the ones shot into the ground, symbolize a daily struggle where prayer doesn’t seem to be making a difference, hence, why he is shooting the arrows into the ground. However, if he had PERSISTED in his prayers (arrows), complete victory would have been possible, but since he stopped, he only had victory 3 times.
Too often, we have a big spiritual breakthrough and think we have had complete victory over sin, never realizing that the complete victory will only occur if we are daily persistent in our prayers and obedience to God. Paul talks about ‘praying without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:16-18) and Jesus taught certain parables ‘so that people should always pray and not give up (Luke 11 and 18). Acts shows examples of Christians staying in prayer all day and night (Acts 1:14 and 2:42), while Psalms talks about crying out to God day and night and the rest of our lives.
When was the last time you were so concerned about something that you fasted for an answer from God? When have you prayed all night and day, ‘pleading’ with heaven to change circumstances that are beyond your control? What about for smaller things, like an attitude change or developing discipline?
May we determine to strive for persistence in our spiritual journeys, so that we can pray along with the saints that “…this is the generation of them that seek him (God), that seek thy face… indeed, while following the way of God’s statutes, we have waited (and persisted) for God eagerly… praying at all times in the Spirit, we have kept alert with all perseverance…that what we ask in prayer and in Jesus’ name will be given, that we me may bring glory to God, not just hearing about His greatness, but seeing it also…For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death… (Ps. 24:6, Isa. 29:6, Eph. 6:18, Mark 11:24, Matt. 21:22, Ps. 48:4 & 14).”