Yip, Yap and I read part of the Bible every night at bedtime. We have just finished reading about the prophet Elijah and his challenge against Ahab and Jezebel's priests who worshiped Baal. In 1 Kings 18 Elijah challenges 450 propehts of Baal.
Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God."
Then the priests called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
With the stones Elijah built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs [c] of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."
"Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed quietly: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
Elijah prayed to God, and God answered Elijah. Not only was his prayer short but it was quiet too. No dancing or screaming just Elijah having a conversation with God.
What a wonderful Bible story, I think it has to be one of my favorites. First of all, it illustrates perfect faith in God in impossible circumstances. After all, logically a pile of soaking wet wood shouldn't catch on fire...but the fire of God did that and more! "...burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench." To have just a bit of Elijah's faith would be an awesome thing.
However, my favorite part of Elijah's story is how he prayed to God. The priests of Baal prayed all day long, shouting, dancing, cutting themselves but to no avail. Maybe they thought the better show they put on for Baal, the better the results. But read Elijah's prayer to God again, read it out loud.
"O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."
How long did it take you to read? Probably less than a minute. In less than a minute Elijah prayed to God and God answered. Sometimes it's important to take stock of how we pray. Do we pray and tell everyone about it? Do we make a big display on Sunday mornings of "praying" in front of the whole church? Or do we pray privately, quietly?
Thank you for the prophet Elijah and the lessons to be learned from him. Thank you for reminding us that prayer is not a show to put on for others but is a conversation between You and me! Amen.