Ep038: Elijah on Climate Change

Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me.”

Today, we look at the prophet Elijah. The New Testament uses Elijah as an example of prayer saying, “Elijah was man with a nature like ours. He prayed that it would not rain, and it didn’t rain for three and a half years. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18).

Here’s the story. Elijah was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel when King Ahab and most of the Israelites had abandoned the God of Israel and were worshipping a local Canaanite deity called Baal. Queen Jezebel, Ahab’s Canaanite wife, encouraged this process. One day, out of the blue, an unknown prophet went to King Ahab and said, “The God of Israel is not happy. There won’t be dew or rain for the next few years until I say so.” Then Elijah the prophet went into hiding.

Sure enough, it didn’t rain for the next three-and-half years, creating hardship and famine in Israel. Finally Elijah came out of hiding, and he organized a competition with the prophets of Baal to see whose god would send down fire on an altar of sacrifice. The prophets of Baal spent all day asking their god to send fire, but it didn’t work. Then Elijah prepared his altar, prayed to God, and the fire of the Lord came down, consuming everything!

Then Elijah prayed seven times for the rain to start again. Soon the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and the rain poured down.

Some observations:  

1.    James calls Elijah a man with a nature like ours. Elijah’s prayer stopped and started the rain, and called down fire from heaven. If that’s the standard for prayer, then my prayers are under performing. The only rain I’ve stopped and started is in the shower and my on/off technique isn’t exactly prayer.

2.    We often wish God would send fire from heaven to demonstrate that he’s real, that our culture of consumerism is modern Baal worship, and that the prophets of Baal on Wall Street are false prophets and posers. But God seems reluctant to stage demonstrations like that.  As Jesus said in Luke’s gospel, “they wouldn’t be convinced even if someone rises from the dead!” (Luke 16:31). Even the Christian vs atheist debates are unconvincing — they all end in stalemate. It’s almost as if God wants to leave room for doubt about whether or not he exists.

3.    This leaves a problem for our prayers. Should we try to stage a big demonstration like Elijah, and hope God shows up? Should we pray like Elijah for rain to stop and fire to fall? Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. So why did this work for him, but it doesn’t work for us?

Let’s pray.
Our father, this story leaves an empty space in our hearts, wondering why our prayers are so powerless. Wondering what you really want from us. Wondering what to pray for next. We thank you that your word has done this work in us, emptying us of self-confidence, removing easy answers, creating questions and doubts. Our God, as you brooded over the waters of chaos at creation, so brood over this emptiness in our lives, and make us into your new creation.

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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