Rainmaker is a term that has entered our vocabulary to describe someone who has outstanding ability to bring new business into a company or organisation. The word has come down from the Native American tradition of someone who would dance and sing songs in a drought in order to bring rain. You can imagine how important a person was considered who was thought to have these powers.
The idea of someone having a connection with deity that was strong enough to affect the weather is also found in the biblical tradition. Most famously, perhaps, Elijah is credited with both bringing about drought and then bringing about rain some three and a half years later through his prayers. James the Lord’s brother, referring to the events of 1 Kings 17-18 comments:
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (James 5.17-18)
Elijah was a rainmaker. His earnest prayers changed the atmosphere – literally.
Good for Elijah, you might say! James’ point, however, is not to celebrate the prayer life of one of Israel’s greatest prophets. His reference to Elijah is simply to illustrate the assertion that he made in verse 16: The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. His main point is that we should pray for one another for healing and that this happens because the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was one such righteous person who prayed to great effect. And we are righteous persons through what Christ has done and therefore we should expect our prayers to have Elijah-like potential. We are potential rainmakers. In fact, we are actually called to be rainmakers.
James further strengthens the link between us and Elijah by saying that Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He was just like us! The King James Version brings this out in a more poetic and, I think, more powerful manner: Elijah was subject to like passions as we are. How true that was. Read 1 Kings 19 and you’ll find the great prophet not only in a physical wilderness but in a spiritual and emotional wilderness as well. Depressed. Tired. Fearful. Wanting to quit. Subject to like passions as we are.
If James is right, and lets’s face it, if we believe the Bible is God’s Word then he must be right, our humanity, specifically the weaknesses associated with our humanity, does not trump our calling or the possibility of effective prayer.
Elijah changed the physical and spiritual atmosphere with his praying:
Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. James 5.18 MSG
Elijah was a rainmaker. We are too. Let’s start changing the atmosphere.