“[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness…and he requested that he might die; and said, ‘It is enough now, O Lord, take away my life.’” 1 Kings 19:4 (KJV)
Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived, yet even he had unanswered prayers. After being assured by Jezebel that his life would come to an end, Elijah ran for the hills. He was so weary, so discouraged, he was ready to throw in the towel, give up the fight, and be at rest in the arms of God.
God did not see fit to answer this prayer, nor has He ever answered it. The book of Second Kings records how Elijah was taken by a flaming chariot into heaven without experiencing the physical death he had wished for. So—end of story, right?
Skip ahead a few centuries and we find in Revelation 11 that God has remembered Elijah’s prayer and answered it.
“And when [the two witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war with them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city…” Revelation 11:7-8
And who are these two witnesses? According to Malachi, one of the witnesses is Elijah.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6
Elijah’s prayer was heard and will be answered—he only needed to wait a few thousand years. I don’t know about you, but I get antsy after waiting a day or two for an answer to my requests. In fact, just two weeks ago God answered a prayer I had been bringing before him for over a year. It happened in a most unexpected way (which seems to be the case most often), and even today I marvel at the circumstances surrounding His answer. But there is a big difference between one year and a thousand. I can’t say for sure, but I probably would have given up believing a positive outcome was possible if a few more years had passed. And yet, I have other requests that have been waiting for an answer for many years. Will I choose to trust God?
Understanding Elijah’s plight gives me great hope. God does not forget my prayers, even if it seems like He has decided not to answer them. The fact is, I only see the steps in front of me but I don’t see (or understand, usually) the big picture. Maybe my unanswered prayer has a greater purpose for another time—perhaps even decades or centuries from now.
Today I will continue to lay my requests at His feet, knowing He hears, He cares, and He will answer one way or another in His perfect time.
“I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.” Psalm 17:6