When I read the story of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, I am always amazed by Elijah’s prayers: first, no less than all-consuming fire from Heaven and second, rain after three years of unrelieved drought. I want to pray like Elijah because he prayed bold, far-reaching, improbable prayers, and God answered his prayers exactly.
I know that God answers all prayers, many times in unexpected ways, and of course, He can always say “no” or “not now”. After all, didn’t He say “no” to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? That example leads me to conclude that “yes” answers are “yes” because the prayers are aligned with God’s will.
Getting back to praying like Elijah, I have to think that faith and obedience kept Elijah aligned with God’s will. In regards to faith, Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is [my] God”. Talk about a statement of faith! Every time he introduced himself, Elijah was confessing his belief in God. God instructed Elijah to go and face his biggest detractor, Ahab, the man who had threatened Elijah’s life and labeled him as the “troubler of Israel”, blaming the catastrophic drought on God’s prophet. Elijah obeyed God without question.
Prayer Is For the Believer
Prayer is for the believer, not for God’s benefit. Sure, He has commanded us to pray, and He pays close attention to our prayers, but He already knows what we need. Prayer is given to us for our benefit. We have a deep-seated need for conversation with our Father, and He is pleased to hear us and to answer us. So, we follow the example of Christ and pray, and our faith blossoms under God’s care.
Elijah’s prayers were for the benefit of God’s people. The crux of the matter on Mt. Carmel wasn’t the lack of belief in God but the presence of belief in Baal. Ahab believed in God, but he built a temple for Baal and allowed Jezebel to sponsor Asherah worship in Samaria. The Israelites were believers in God, but they also believed in Baal. The showdown on the mountain and the three years of drought that led up to it, were designed to disprove the power and the very existence of Baal since he was considered to be the god of rain and the god of fire.
Who Am I Praying To?
Don’t you think the Israelites were praying for rain? Every day? Hourly? By the time of the showdown, I’m certain every Israelite was praying his or her heart out for a breath, a hint, of rain. The only problem was that they were directing their prayers to the wrong god. Even if they directed their prayers for rain to Yahweh, He was completely, jealously aware that they were putting their hope in Baal too. How could He bless His people with rain when they would give credit to their false god?
Do I do that? Do I pray to God, and put my hope in something or someone else? Money, success, health, family, love, or entertainment? You won’t find a shrine dedicated to a false god at my house, at least not an obvious one. Still, I’ve noticed that my prayers are not bold prayers like Elijah’s. I’ve noticed that most of my thoughts are occupied by money, success, health, family, love, and entertainment, and my prayers tend to mirror what I think about most often.
A New Prayer to the God of Fire and Rain
As I consider Elijah’s prayers, I realize that I need to think of God in the same way Elijah did. Elijah wore the name of God proudly: “Yahweh is my God”. Elijah recognized that God is all-powerful; He is the God of fire and the God of rain. So I have a new prayer:
Oh God, may the fire of your Spirit burn in me, and let me always give you credit for the rainstorm of blessings you pour out on me. My prayer is that I will wear your name proudly at all times and confess that Yahweh is my God. God of fire and rain, help me to pray boldly in your will and rejoice as you answer “yes” to my prayers.