Summary: There was an alter sacrifice and the prophets of Baal keep chanting "oh, Baal, answer us!" for many hours, but nothing happened. Then, Elijah offered up a short prayer and God consumed the sacrifice. But soon after things took a turn for the worst.
FROM A WARRIOR PRAYER TO A SORRIER PRAYER (THEN BACK AGAIN)
INTRODUCTION: When I went through the Lord's Prayer a couple of weeks ago in regards to Jesus telling us to not pray as the pagans do I mentioned the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. There was an alter sacrifice and the prophets of Baal keep chanting the same phrase over and over for long hours, "Oh, Baal, answer us" but nothing happened. Then, Elijah offered up a short prayer and God consumed the sacrifice. Today we'll look at that prayer and the contrasting prayer that followed; finishing on a strong note.
1) The warrior prayer.
1st Kings 18:36-40, "At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “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. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there."
So Elijah prays a powerful prayer. He himself is convinced that God is the one and only and he wanted his people to be convinced. Elijah showed a lot of courage and faith in taking on the prophets of Baal. He put himself in a vulnerable position. He proposed a challenge to see whose god was really God. And especially after Elijah teased and taunted the prophets of Baal, telling them to shout louder since their god might be asleep, he put himself in a position to be utterly humiliated if God didn't come through. But God did come through.
Shortly after this Elijah prayed again and God ended the three-year drought that had been going on. Elijah was a man of prayer who saw God do great things. As James 5:17-18 attests to. "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. Again he prayed and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
This was what God was doing through Elijah. This is what was happening in Elijah's prayer life. Elijah's prayer on Mount Carmel showed his confidence in God's ability. He wanted his people to become just as convinced as he was. So you would think Elijah's experiences would only serve to boost his confidence in God even more. However, soon after this charismatic and confident prayer, followed by the dramatic display of God's power, we see a sad shift in Elijah's next prayer.
2) The sorrier prayer.
1st Kings 19:1-5a, "Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep."
We might ask, 'how could this happen'? How could Elijah be so confident in one prayer and completely despondent in the next? Elijah had plenty of experiences to convince him of God's power. In the beginning of chapter 17, Elijah declared there would be a severe drought for a few years. Then God tells him to go hide in the Kerith Ravine and he would take care of him by commissioning ravens to bring him food.
Then, when the brook that he drank from dried up God sent him to the widow's house where Elijah performed the miracle of a continuous supply of oil and flour. And after that he saw God use him to bring the widow's son back to life.
But during the three years Elijah was gone King Ahab's wife Jezebel was killing off the Lord's prophets. But Obadiah had taken 100 prophets and hidden them in two caves. God told Elijah to go back and present himself to King Ahab. And even when Obadiah makes it clear to Elijah that Ahab has been looking for him to kill him he still tells Obadiah to go tell Ahab he is here. And when Ahab shows up angry Elijah doesn't back down but instead issues a challenge for the prophets of Baal to assemble and he and them would have a showdown to determine whose god was really God.