Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly
that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land
for three and a half years (James 5: 17).
I have always seen the story of Elijah's dealing with the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17: 9-23, just as one of those Old Testament miracles. It wasn't surprising that Elijah raised the woman's dead son to life since he was a prophet. After all, God was with him so he could do anything.
But now suddenly I see Elijah as a man in a situation he did not know how to handle. A widow has been looking after him and her son dies. She has given him food and shelter for some time. When her son dies, in a way, she accuses Elijah. He is aghast; he is at a loss for what to do, like any of us would be. Her son was not just sick: he was dead.
Elijah was not as confident as many of us Christians are today. He didn't just speak the word in boldness like a prophet of God who had performed miracles before and could just call things into being. He was in a hard place and he cried out to God as a man in need of help. He was not even very spiritual in verse 20. He accused God of bringing further calamity on the woman. However, he didn't stop at that. He was cornered and had to do something
He began to cry out to God 'O lord my God, I pray You, let this child's soul come back into him.' (v. 21) At the same time he stretched himself on the child. I don't believe he stretched himself on the child three times because three has a special meaning in the spiritual realm, and so he was doing the 'right' thing. There is, but it so happened that the child did not come back to life after the first two times. So he persisted. I believe if the child had wakened after Elijah first lay on him, Elijah would have stopped.
What happened after should not just be looked at as another miracle, following a certain procedure. The Bible says in verse 22, that 'the Lord heard the voice of Elijah and the soul of the child came into him again.' So the child was restored to life because God answered Elijah's prayer, 'a man subject to like passion as we are.'
This is not written to suggest that we should spend more time in seeking to raise the dead, but that like Elijah we need to cry out to God when we are cornered; when we are in a hard place and there seems no way out. God hears.