Elisha and the Bold Request

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(Image courtesy of quickandpowerful.org)

When I was in seminary I took a class on the Elijah/Elisha Cycle.  They’ve always been two of my favorite prophets; Elijah, for his battle, complete with snarky taunts, against foreign gods on Mount Carmel (2 Kings 18), and Elisha, for his daring petition to Elijah for a “double share” of the prophet’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9).  I also would have to confess that there is something sheepishly amusing about Elisha sending the bears to get the children who make fun of his bald hair (2 Kings 2:23-24). 

If you’ve been following my posts over the last week or so, then you probably have seen some form of the word “bold” show up on several different occasions.  I’ve been thinking about it, and it has a way of becoming a reoccurring theme for me.  I do not mean bold as in “I do what I want and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”  That’s more along the lines of vanity with the extreme self concern to the exclusion of others.  I mean bold as in not hesitating, being courageous and daring.  Before there were Christians, Christ was telling his disciples to be bold.  He sent them out in pairs with authority over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7).  There was no “just give it a try and if there’s a problem, come back and see me.”  He sent them to heal and he meant for them to do it.  Christ is bold in his directives and we should be bold in carrying them out.  He even teaches us to pray with boldness.  The Lord’s Prayer is not filled with “if you want, Lord” or “may I please.”  It’s filled with strong declarative statements, almost demanding.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”  “Forgive us of our trespasses.”

So I come back to Elisha.  He’s been following Elijah around, learning by watching the prophet work, and now Elijah is preparing to go to God.  He’s not actually dying; he’s being taken directly up to God in a chariot of fire no less.  Elijah turns to Elisha and says, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you” (2 Kings 2:9).  Immediately comes Elisha’s request: a double share of your spirit.  No where else in scripture is the phrase “double share” to be found.  Elisha is innovating, but he’s also looking for greater power, twice as much.  Elijah tells hims that he has “asked a hard thing” (2 Kings 2:10), but if Elisha can see Elijah as he ascends, then God will grant Elisha’s request.  So how do we know if Elisha receives this double share?  He takes the mantle of Elijah from where it has fallen and strikes the water of the Jordan River.  The water parts and Elisha walks through it on dry land.  Ask and you shall receive.

Jesus tells us, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).  When you boldly ask God for the means to begin a new after school ministry for at-risk children, you had better be prepared to receive.  When you boldly offer God to come into your life in new ways, then you had better be ready for that to happen.  When you boldly pray for God to forgive your sins, then you had better be willing to live as a redeemed child of God.  Our God is bold.  It’s time that we started to reveal and mirror that in our prayers, our lives, and most assuredly our faith.

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