On Mt. Carmel, we find Elijah praying as he leads the children of Israel in the worship of the one, true, and eternal LORD. In the midst of the battle for supremacy between God and Baal, Elijah pleads with God to manifest His glory. In 1 Kings 18:36-37 we read the words of his prayer, “LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” Surely these words are appropriate to reflect upon as we pray to God.
Elijah’s prayer in one sense is backwards looking. He invokes the name of the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. By invoking this Name, Elijah looks back to the track record of God’s faithfulness to the patriarchs and as he does he reminds the people of who God has been for them in the past. He has revealed Himself as the Redeemer and Provider of His people. So often we worry so much about the future, but prayer also involves looking backwards to what God has done to help us face the future. This encourages us in prayer, to persist in asking God to remain faithful to His promises that He has made to His people.
Elijah’s prayer is also forward looking. Even as he invokes the Name of the LORD, he reminding the people of Israel what God has done, he prays that the Name of the LORD might be exalted, “Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel.” The LORD is not only the God of the past, but also of the present. That is revealed in His Name – LORD, Jehovah, or Yahweh. He is the One that was, the One that is now, and the One that will be forever. As we pray to the God of the past are we praying that He will be known in the present? God would make Himself known in the fire consuming the sacrifice and this causes us to look to Calvary, where God provided His Substitute and consumed Him while sparing us (Rom. 8:32). Is this your focus in prayer?
Elijah’s prayer is a vindication of the LORD’s will and work through the prophet. He prays for God to show the people that he is the true servant of God and does God’s will in contrast to the false prophets of Baal. Are we praying for God to vindicate or justify Himself through us and in us? On Carmel, the battle was for God’s supremacy and Elijah prays that the supremacy of God would indeed be demonstrated. As we pray in our churches and in our closets, are we praying for the supremacy of God to be manifested in our lives, in the Church and in the nation and that our lives would be a testimony of doing His will? That is how God displays His supremacy.
Elijah’s prayer is also for the people in front of him. They had willingly followed Baal in their hearts, but now as Elijah calls them to true worship of the LORD, he prays that they might be filled with the knowledge of God as God’s supremacy is put on display. He also prays that their hearts might be turned back to the LORD. Elijah’s time of prayer is focused on God, for His supremacy to be seen on Mt. Carmel, but it also focused on the people who willingly followed a god who proved to be a sore delusion. There are millions of people in our world who serve other gods who are delusions. There are family members, friends and co-workers who are serving other gods. And who can say that we are untouched by this sin? Are we focused in prayer for this, that God would be revealed and that our hearts and the hearts of others would be turned to God? In this too, God’s supremacy will be displayed just as the Israelites confessed, “The LORD he is the God.”
Finally, in verse 42, we find Elijah praying with his head between his knees. He is praying fervently for rain. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). The LORD answers graciously and sends an abundance of rain. Dear friends, the LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and provided cleaning in the blood of Jesus Christ for the sins of idolatry and every other kind of sin. He is worthy to be worshiped and to be entreated. He is supreme. Is our prayer focused on God’s supremacy?