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.
The story of this woman’s conception is a miraculous tale. We know that she had no son, and the scriptures tell us that her husband was old. This seems to indicate that his age foreclosed any hope for a child. As she had been kind to Elisha and treated him like a son, he wanted to repay her for her kindness. He spoke a word over her that she would give birth to a son, and she begged him not to toy with her. The following Spring, she would find that he was being sincere once she gave birth. This is the child who now lay dead in her home. This son, who was clearly a gift from God, appeared to be no more, so she went back to the man who had spoken this gift over her.
Elisha first sent his servant with his staff to run to the boy while Elisha comforted the woman, but the boy was not alive. Elisha then prayed with the boy twice, and he did something interesting in the process. He literally put himself in the boy’s position. It is a strange account, but there is a valuable metaphor here. To be empathetic is to put oneself in another’s shoes. Elisha might have felt this way toward the woman knowing how much this son meant to her. He appears to have felt this way toward the son by assuming that same physical position during his prayers. I see this as him praying not as an outsider for those in need but as if he were the one in need. I think that change in approach to prayer very well might change prayer.
This is a question of whether we approach our prayers for others the same way that we approach our prayers for ourselves. The hope is that we do not distinguish between the urgency of one and the other. The picture I get of Elisha is one of a man who took on their need and pain as if they were his own. I think this is a real picture of intercession, of being a true intermediary for someone. We stand in their shoes and cry out for them as we would cry out for ourselves. At times, this might seem like an awkward position to take, but it is not unlike the position Christ took for us. Father, give us the heart of Elisha for prayer as we intercede for others, that we would plead their case as if it were our own.