A Lesson from Elijah: How to Gain Power for Ministry through Rhythms of Prayer
Nothing gets me moving like a rhythm that teases my toes to tap. When I’m cooking dinner or running the vacuum (neither of which are my favorite chores), I pipe peppy music into my earbuds. A jazzy tempo never fails to energize me for the task at hand.
I’m a woman who appreciates a variety of rhythms—including contemporary worship hymns, big band crooning, and Motown pop. And not just musical rhythms—I lean into the beauty of life rhythms, too.
When God created the world, His masterpiece was fashioned with rhythmic cycles. In a similar way, He designed the human soul to flourish through patterns of work, rest, recreation, and sleep. All are gifts from His wise, loving hands.
I don’t always steward these gifts well. I’m prone to overwork in some seasons and toil like a slug in others. I’m guilty of pushing my human limits with a fleshly attitude of “I can do it all” instead of seeking what God has and has not appointed for me. As a longtime ministry servant, I’m learning the necessity of rhythms in work and in prayer.
Rhythms in Ministry
One pastor offers the wise advice to “divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.”1 In addition to my daily quiet times, I try to reserve one morning every week (or so) for an extended time with the Lord in the Word and prayer. Then once a year, I clear the deck and power down the electronics for one full day—or even an entire weekend.
I dub my annual spiritual retreat “A Kerith Ravine,” which is based on the ministry of Elijah.I’m convinced this practice serves as a safeguard for persevering in ministry and rebounding from the brink of burnout. I’ve experienced major spiritual breakthroughs, cried out for anointing, and gained clarity on my life’s direction and ministry. While each Kerith Ravine retreat is unique, I’ve never once been disappointed or regretted the time I set apart for God. He always shows up to our utter (and mutual) delight! Once this pattern becomes your life rhythm, it becomes like oxygen for your lungs.
God’s Protection for Elijah
When the prophet Elijah burst onto the pages of Scripture in 1 Kings 17, he brought dire news to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah prophesied God’s judgment on Israel’s idolatry through an impending drought. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, the Lord instructed Elijah to flee to a designated hideout by the Kerith Ravine (also called the Brook or Wadi Cherith) for his next ministry assignment.
God’s plan to protect Elijah from certain retaliation was to send him to a remote place where he would be fed by ravens and drink water supplied by a brook. Elijah was alone with God with no means of providing for himself during the first year of a three-year drought. There were no golden arches or Chick-fil-As, no hidden water tank or bulked-up bodyguards. Elijah’s life support was the God of the universe who commanded water to flood into ravines and ravens to feed people.
Living by the brook was more than a protection plan for the sheepskin-wearing prophet who’d infuriated the king and queen reigning over Israel. The Kerith Ravine became Elijah’s training ground for advancing in faith and reliance on the Lord. God’s plan and purpose for our lives is meticulously multi-layered; His way of growing us and meeting our needs is often unexpected.
God’s Provision of Power
God had big plans for Elijah, but the prophet lacked something essential to fulfill his divine calling. As God’s chosen instrument, Elijah was void of the spiritual power to . . .
- Multiply a handful of flour and a dab of oil to sustain three people (1 Kings 17:14–15).
- Heal the Zarephath widow’s dying son (1 Kings 17:17–24).
- Overthrow Baal worship and slaughter 450 prophets at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20–40).
- Call the Israelites to follow the one true God (1 Kings 18:21).
- Summon the rain after a three-year drought (1 Kings 18:41–46).
- Run with superhuman speed to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:46).
Elijah couldn’t accomplish any of these things. Only God can supply thespiritual power for men and women to do what is humanly impossible. A leader’s anointing with power cannot be purchased with an Amex card, secured from the next women’s conference, or gained by a master’s degree. The best source of wisdom and supernatural power is an extended time of prayer in the presence of the Lord.
God Shapes Elijah into a Person of Prayer
Power for ministry cannot be detached from a life of prayer.
Elijah was shaped into a man of prayer who lived in the presence of God. That’s the kind of servant I want to be. James 5:17–18 singled out Elijah as an ordinary man with the same limitations as you and I—but who wielded extraordinary power through prayer.
God will make us into women of prayer if we ask and then obey when His Spirit calls us to come away with Him. There are times when we must retreat from people and from the constant distractions and disruptions that characterize our busy lives. Our spirits are crying out for solitude and regular intervals of rest and personal worship.
A Kerith Ravine Retreat
If the idea of being alone with God for more than an hour, let alone an entire day, sounds uncomfortable, let me calm your fears: start small. Over time, let two hours grow into a half day then expand into a full day. One day may increase into two days. Let the Lord be your guide. I’ll share tips and practical ways to fill the time at the end of this article.
Consider incorporating a modified fast during your spiritual retreat to maintain focus. As I deny my flesh, hunger for the living God and His Word sharpens my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s direction. What I treasure most about a Kerith Ravine is intimacy with my Father as I’m fed by the Word and my thirst is quenched by His immeasurable love and grace. Through this practice, I’m discovering what it means to rest in Christ.
Friend, whatever your level of ministry responsibility, I don’t have to tell you that the demands of ministry are high. That’s exactly why ministry demands that we slip away to hide ourselves in God. I’m praying for you, dear servant of the Most High God, that you’ll be empowered and refreshed through a Kerith Ravine retreat.
In the classic devotional Streams in the Desert, L. B. Cowman writes:
Every saintly soul that desires to wield great influence over others must first win the power in some hidden Kerith Ravine. Acquiring spiritual power is impossible unless we hide from others and ourselves in some deep ravine where we may absorb the power of the eternal God . . . God’s servants must be taught the value of the hidden side of life. The person who is to serve in a lofty place before others must also assume a lowly place before his God.2
Elijah’s name means “My God of power.” Even though he was called to serve as a prophet, he knew he had no power of his own. Elijah turned to his God like the disciples did and waited to be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Elijah’s life proves that the words spoken to Zerubbabel by the LORD of Armies are true for all of His servants, “‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit’” (Zech. 4:6).
May His power be so evident in your life and ministry that there’s no other explanation except God did it.
Note: Ready to have your own Kerith Ravine retreat? Get Leslie’s tips and sample schedule here.
1Rick Warren, “What to Do When You Want to Give Up,” www.biblicalleadership.com, August 26, 2019, https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/what-to-do-when-you-want-to-give-up/.
2 L. B. Cowman, “Hiding Place – Streams in the Desert – September 16,” Crosswalk.com (Crosswalk.com, September 16, 2021), https://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/desert/streams-in-the-desert-september-16th.html.