There are no distractions, says one recent writer. There are only choices to focus on other things. If so, the Church, at its weakest moment, is not distracted from its mission but following its choosing to focus on something else. Many times, we, as believers, as seminarians, and as pastors, choose to focus on other things. At this point, we are called to re-focus our attention on what will meet our needs, answer our longings, and satisfy our desires. And where do we look?

In these fast-paced years of the Twenty-first century, you might be surprised to learn that our vision for the future could be located in a story from 800 BC, in a faraway place called Shunem. In the life and times of a woman whose desperate need went beyond human capacity, we see that prayer is all you have in such times. But the ministry of prayer, so often overlooked and misunderstood, is all you need. And nothing shapes prayer like desperation.

Let us hear the inerrant and infallible Word of God.

2 KINGS 4:8-37

 

Elisha and the Shunammite Woman

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food.

And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way.

Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”

One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there.

And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him.

And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?'” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”

And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.”

He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway.

And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.”

But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.

Elisha Raises the Shunammite’s Son

When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers.

And he said to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.”

And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died.

And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door behind him and went out.

Then she called to her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.”

And he said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” She said, “All is well.”

Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.”

So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite.

Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?'” And she answered, “All is well.”

And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me.”

Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?'”

He said to Gehazi, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.”

Then the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.

Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed.

So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the LORD.

Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm.

Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.”

She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

“The grass withers, the flower fades,

But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NKJV).

Let us pray.

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in Thy sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. And let me preach as if never to preach again, as a dying man to dying men. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

WHAT A WOMAN!

 

I have to admit it. I am captivated by a woman, and what a woman! First, let me be clear! I am fascinated—No! I am in covenant love—with my dear wife (Sorry to rob you of a good scandal). Yet, here I must be careful to say, “There is another woman”—which my wife even approves of! This other woman is in heaven now. But once, she lived a most extraordinary life. I am astounded by her story. She lived 800 years before Jesus was born. And the most compelling thing about her is what I think you will also become passionate about—her faith.

When I was a boy, I loved the story we are reading today. In my childish way, I was the boy, and my Aunt Eva was the Shunammite woman, and, well, I will tell you later about our Elisha. But I used to imagine that as I was in the fields pulling up turnips and pinching mustard, I was the Shunammite woman’s boy, having sunstroke in that balmy, breezeless South Louisiana summer sun, and in need of a touch from God in the heat of the day.

Some of us are living with the heat of a different sun on our brow—crushing financial debt, emotionally draining physical disabilities, depression-inducing unemployment, and unrelenting attacks from within and without. Some of us are living in the heat stroke of loss. For all of us in the fields of desperate days of affliction, there is a Word from God. There is a Word that comes through this woman. Of all people, God seems always to choose a woman, an otherwise anonymous woman, to display His power and show that He can bring life from death, hope from hopelessness, and joy to the downcast: Sarah, Rahab, Esther, Ruth, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary. And this woman from Shunem.

Yet beyond the hope we see in this passage is the power and the priority of this woman’s prayer life. It comes to the fore as she faces the extraordinary crisis of her little boy’s death. There is the confusing, conflicted, enigmatic moment of loss; she takes her burden to God in prayer. There, we, too, are called to see the priority of prayer in our lives.

The remarkable story from 2 Kings 4.8-37 is not an all-encompassing, exhaustive study of prayer in God’s Word. But this Scripture will show you the priority of prayer when faced with a tremendous undertaking. It supplies us with great lessons concerning the ministry of prayer that each of us needs. It is best to put the pitch on the boat before you head into rough seas than to try and seal the ship amid a storm! So prepare your soul, believer, with these six lessons on prayer from the Shunammite woman’s story!

Lesson number one:

1. The priority of prayer recognizes that we need a mediator and an intercessor. (Vv.8-10)

 

There would come a time in this woman’s life when she needed God. She was going to need a supernatural visitation from the Lord to save her boy. But that supernatural victory, that river of faith, began with a trickle of faith. She believed in this man of God and told her husband in verses 8-11 that they should provide a room for the prophet of God. So they did. And Elisha stayed there. This woman wanted an intermediary. She wanted an intercessor and saw this man, Elisha, possessing that divinely ordained role.

None of us will deny that there will come a time when we shall need God. There will come difficulties in our lives. There shall come challenges that our intellect and our resources cannot handle. And if you say, “I have all that I need to handle any emergency,” then I shall tell you: “What about your soul? What will happen when your very breath leaves you, and you are cast out into eternity?”

Now, the Shunammite woman believed that this man was of God. She saw that he could establish a relationship between her and God.

And Elisha is a type of the Lord Jesus. This morning, I present the Lord Jesus Christ as the Man of God, the Man from God, the very God-Man, and as Paul calls him, The Man Christ Jesus. This woman knew that she wanted the Man of God in her home. This was not a lucky rabbit’s foot to her. She wanted God in her house. The only Mediator between God and man is the Man Christ Jesus. Hear the Word of God:

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” – Rom. 8.34

“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them.” – Heb. 7.25

Everything you need begins with inviting Jesus Christ into your life. I would be injuring this text and neglecting my duty as a Minister of the Gospel if I did not start my first point by charging you, before God and men, to welcome Christ into your life.

That is lesson one: Recognize that you need a Mediator between you and God and One who will intercede on your behalf before the Throne of the Almighty. Lesson number two is this:

2. The priority of prayer directs us to a savior who desires to give us a gift. (vv. 11-17)

 

The Shunammite woman wanted the man of God in her home, so she and her husband prepared him a room. But, the man of God wanted to bless them. He went to their most profound need: a desire for a child, and He interceded, and God Almighty miraculously granted their heart’s desire.

This is a picture of our Lord, who desires to give us His gift of grace, His anointing on our lives. I believe that since the vision of a church that welcomes hurting people to receive grace is His vision, “gathering and growing strong disciples of Christ who are making other disciples,” I know He wants us to realize this vision.

The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” God is the giver of life, and to a fallen race, He became the giver of a Covenant of grace, whereby He would give His Son for our life and take our sins. And He gives His Holy Spirit to lift crippled sinners out of their depraved condition and carry them to the Son, who heals them and gives them the name of Son or daughter.

You who are caught in the grips of heartache: won’t you receive His gift of salvation? And will you, who know the Savior, stay away from Him? Knowing He loves to bestow gifts upon His children should make you want to pray to Him.

The third lesson about the ministry of prayer is this:

3. The priority of prayer will be taken seriously when we see the impossible situation we face. (Vv. 18-22)

 

All that could be done for that sun-stricken little boy was done. A distressed father sent the child to the nurturing arms of a wise mother. She held the child. She did all she could for the child. But the child died. At the point of impossibility, humanly speaking, the woman took the next step: she put that child on Elisha’s bed and went after the man of God.

The passage is rich in its teaching about resurrection, and it foresees a Day when God will raise His own Son, and by faith in Him, the bodies of others shall arise. But it also teaches that only a miraculous means will do when faced with an impossible vision.

Martin Luther spoke of prayer: “Trouble touches the heart and awakens ardent longing for God’s help. No one prays for anything deeply who has not been deeply alarmed.”

The Burden for our vision, “that God would come down and bring revival,” is Church on a conviction that our generation is hopeless without God. Every sign points to a degenerating society. The increase of ungodliness, the apathy of so many in the Church, the wholesale acceptance of sins that the Bible condemns as the sins which will destroy a nation: homosexuality, abortion, disregard of the Sabbath day, profaning the Name of Almighty God and the Lord Jesus Christ on the airwaves of this nation, and so many more are pointing toward judgment. We have a dying nation on our hands. We have dying people on our hands, and unless there is divine intervention, there will be judgment. It is not time for a small vision. It is time for a giant vision of a third great awakening to come to this nation. The sun is beating down unmercifully on our children God gave us, and will we not run to Him who gave us these little ones?

I have read book after book and attended numerous seminars telling me I need a new logo and a new statement of identity to achieve the vision. I have nothing against logos, but the Titanic had a great logo! So many church consultants tell me we need a more marketable image and a style that can relate to pagans. That Shunammite woman knew that only the Lord could solve her problem. So, she went for the Mediator! The vision of this Shunammite woman was for a miracle! She wanted her lad back from the icy grip of death.

That is our vision. Our real problem is that we don’t have a fix on the vision. Our vision is not for just a growing church and some great programs: our vision is for God to shower our lives and through our church, this nation, and the world with a fresh demonstration of His Spirit and power and to SAVE US from the grip of death and Hell and destruction.

So, let these portions of God’s Word correct our vision and enlarge our understanding of our plight and condition: we want a supernatural demonstration of God. We need salvation.

A fourth lesson also emerges from this story, and it is a refreshing and happy lesson:

4. The priority of prayer leads us to a willing Lord. (v. 27)

 

Now when she came to the man of God at the hill, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone; for her soul is in deep distress, and the Lord has hidden it FROM me, and has not told me.” – 2 Kings 4.27

Gehazi forbade the woman, but she knew the salvation of her boy rested with that Man of God, and nothing would stop her. The woman is like the woman in the crowd who had an issue of blood. Even Jesus’ predisposed ministry would not stop that woman:

“And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was made well from that hour.” — Matt. 9.20-22

On the other hand, Gehazi is like the New Testament disciples who confused God’s honor with His desire to reach out to people in need. They thought, like Gehazi, that they were doing their Lord a favor by keeping the mothers and their infants from the Master. But God delights in answering prayer. Elisha said, “Let her alone!” God welcomes you with your needs this morning.

When our burdens, our vision, our need for healing, our need for salvation, and our need for wisdom drive us to God in prayer, we have a God willing to demonstrate His glory through answered prayers.

I have heard it said: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His highest willingness.” I would only add that we are praying, and prayer is by its nature a supplication, not a demand. Prayer is always a lesser being appealing to the Greatest Being. And so we go to God and cry, “Unless you come and visit us, Lord, we have no hope.” But the very character of God, who sent His Son, shows us that we are praying to a God who answers prayer and delights in blessing His people. Thus, I am most confident. I am most excited about the future, no matter what I read in the papers or hear in the news. Almighty God is still on His throne, and we can cry out to God with confidence for the salvation of our loved ones. We can pray for revival with confidence. We can hope the best, wish the best, and expect the best from the God who says, “For all the promises of God in Him are ‘Yes, and in Him, ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God through us.” (2 Cor. 1.20).

The fifth lesson:

5. The Priority of Prayer: Not Merely Ritual, but the Power of God’s Anointing (Verses 31-35)

 

This lesson emerges following a critical examination of two pivotal elements in this portion of Scripture:

Firstly, we observe the fruitlessness of Gehazi’s attempts to resurrect the child (verse 31). This incident reveals Gehazi’s true character, further exposed in chapters 5.20-27.

Secondly, the narrative emphasizes that only Elisha was divinely anointed for such a miraculous, death-defying ministry (Verses 34-35).

Gehazi, devoid of God’s anointing, is portrayed as powerless. His character unmasked in chapter five, verses 20-27, is that of a charlatan driven by greed. He epitomizes a hireling serving not the divine will but his avaricious pursuits, and such duplicity invites judgment.

Similarly, a Christless, godless religion stands impotent before supernatural needs. Only through Christ, resurrected by God the Father, can the transformation of God’s enemies into His children occur, mending shattered dreams and bringing life from death.

This truth was known to the Psalmist, who wrote in Psalm 46:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.”

I have witnessed increased stories of heartache and sorrow in my pastoral encounters with distressed families. Peering into our culture through these individuals, I see the seismic disruptions of divorce, the crumbled mountains of aspirations plummeting into turbulent seas. The frenetic tempo of our era’s music seems to soundtrack a generation cascading into perdition.

Yet, a God exists—the Psalmist’s “Refuge” and “Strength.” This God, born amidst Herod’s murderous storm, confronted the tidal waves of hatred while enduring the cross’s torment. Sinless, He bore our sins, inviting us into His sanctified fold. Amidst life’s tempests, He stands unyielding, extending an invitation to bring our tribulations – our familial struggles, our personal storms – to Him. We are called to eschew Gehazi-like solutions and seek refuge in Him, our sole bastion and strength.

6. The Transformative Power of Prayer (Verses 36-37)

 

Consider the Shunammite woman, profoundly transformed, her grief replaced with a deeper understanding of God’s might. Can one doubt that once dead and then revived, this child served the Lord henceforth?

Through prayer, God alters circumstances, individuals, and even generations. The Psalmist in Psalm 46 beckons: “Come, behold the works of the Lord…”

The testimonies of God’s faithful are potent catalysts for revival. My prayer is for our church to persist in prayer, sharing stories of God’s miraculous interventions – resurrected hopes, rejuvenated families, renewed spirits – inspiring our community to declare, “Come, behold the works of the Lord…”

“Go Get Brother DeValle!”

 

I loved the Shunammite’s story. I felt I was that boy, Aunt Eva was the Shunammite woman, and Elisha was a lay preacher at a tiny independent church just up from us (a most humble sanctuary made of rough-hewn pine, but a cathedral to me for my father was saved in that chapel). One day, I lived out the biblical narrative in a way I could never forget.

At about five, asthma plagued me. Living remotely with Aunt Eva, with no automobile, our nearest help was that little tabernacle led by a plumber-preacher, Brother DeValle. I will never forget him. He wore overalls when he preached. I wore a robe, but he wore his best overalls. But as a child, I saw that as a statement, “I am not plowing. I am preaching. So I will wear my best for the Lord.” The thick Louisiana air was not the best for a boy with a lung disease. On one occasion, I was so stricken by asthma that I was gasping for air.

I urged Aunt Eva to fetch him. “Who?” Aunt Eva replied in her urgent concern to get help. “Get the man of God!” So Aunt Eva told me to “stay put.” She gathered up her apron and began running down the gravel road. There was no reason to think that Brother DeValle would even be there. He was a plumber by day and only a preacher by night! Yet, in the first of a series of miracles, the preacher was there, repairing the Tabernacle. He saw Aunt Eva running towards him. Realizing there was some emergency, he dropped his tools and ran to Aunt Eva. He then outpaced her to get to me. Swiftly, upon his arrival, the preacher laid hands on me and prayed over me, his eyes to the sky. He carried me in his arms and got me to his plumbing truck. He took off for a lady in the community who knew about nursing (I am not sure she was a registered nurse, but she was famous for her various “cures”). The Lord healed me. So powerful was that time that I did not experience asthma again until I was in my sixties.

God heals—sometimes instantaneously, sometimes gradually, or at times, not in ways we expect. But He always responds to prayer. That day, He healed me. This miracle became Aunt Eva’s lifelong testimony, and it remains mine. But I had part of it all wrong. For the power of the story was not Brother DeValle. He was the instrument. The power and the presence that day was none other than the risen Christ. The One the Shunammite looked to, and we must receive, is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Savior in the passage, the Healer in our lives, and the Redeemer of lost and broken people.

As you struggle for breath in life’s trials, remember the priority of prayer. It leads to the Promised One’s power, bringing all who call upon Him new life and hope.

Let us fixate, undistracted, like the Shunammite woman, on the only One who can alleviate our pain and resurrect our dead. Remember that desperation is not only a prompt for prayer, it is a posture for authentic prayer.

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