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Elijah’s Prayer Battle

The story of Elijah’s epic prayer battle against the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel is a must-read for every believer. If you’re not familiar with the story, take a moment to read it. It’s a good one. It is found in I Kings 18:16-39. Making sense of this prayer battle requires some

The story of Elijah’s epic prayer battle against the prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel is a must-read for every believer. If you’re not familiar with the story, take a moment to read it. It’s a good one. It is found in I Kings 18:16-39.

Making sense of this prayer battle requires some backstory.

Israel had rejected God as their King. Unlike other countries, Israel was led by prophets, priests, and judges. They didn’t have a human king because God was their King. That wasn’t good enough for them, so they asked Samuel the High Priest to give them a human king to lead them into battle. Samuel warned the people of the consequences of rejecting God’s sovereignty. They did so anyway. You can read that part of the story in I Samuel 8. The result was a long line of wayward and abusive kings who chased after idols and pagan rituals and led Israel astray.

Elijah’s prayer battle takes place under the reign of rotten King Ahab. Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord and angered the Lord more than any of the kings who came before him. He married the wayward Jezebel and began serving and worshiping the idol Baal and promoting pagan rituals. Jezebel hunted down and executed the prophets of God. It was an awful season for Israel.

Elijah prophesied to King Ahab that a drought without any dew or rain would take place for several years—and it would only rain at Elijah’s word. God then instructs Elijah to hide. The drought causes a severe famine. Three years later, Elijah emerges from hiding in the midst of the drought and the famine.

This backstory sets the stage for the battle on Mount Carmel, which you’ve taken the time to read — right?

There are several prayer lessons to be gleaned from Elijah’s prayer battle:

God is the Eternal King. We live under the authority of earthly rulers, and we are directed in the Scriptures to obey them, but we do not worship them, fear them, or look to them for meaning, security or hope. See Romans 13. Christians have only one King — the King of kings and Lord of lords.

My friends, the battles we encounter in prayer will always be won, regardless of the outcome, as we place our faith fully in God, the one true, sovereign, and eternal King. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego declared this truth as they faced execution in the fiery furnace. Daniel 3:16-18,

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

When God is truly your King, and you trust fully in His sovereignty, worldly outcomes no longer define success. All that matters is faithful, trust and obedience. When you go to battle in prayer, take heart, by faith, you already have the victory!

Make up your mind. Elijah asked, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Jesus declared, “No one can serve two masters.” See Matthew 6:24. A lack of decisiveness results in a directionless and lukewarm life. See Revelation 3:16.

Is God your eternal and sovereign King, or isn’t He? Do you keep waffling between allegiance to God and something else? Are you delaying a firm decision so you can keep your options open? If so, then you’re trying to live life with your feet on two sides of a fence. It doesn’t work — and you know it. It is time to declare with Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15.

Miracles begin with impossibilities. That may be a captain-obvious statement, but I think we sometimes forget that the impossible is the very reason we pray. To drive the point of impossibility home, Elijah had the sacrifice and altar drenched with water. He made sure no one could accuse him of trickery or sleight-of-hand. The miracle could only be attributable to God — and the response of the people reveals they got the point, “The Lord — He is God! The Lord — He is God!” Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. So, pray like it!

And as you pray for the impossible, remember that God’s will trumps our will. If the answer you receive is no, then restfully in the sovereignty of the King Who loves you beyond anything you can imagine. Get up from your prayer and live in faith. Let nothing hold you back from your desire to bring glory to God — even in struggle and weakness. The battle in prayer is fought and won, first and foremost, in our hearts.

God’s heart is moved by humility, sincerity, and obedience. God will not be manipulated. Theatrical displays (like dancing and shrieking and cutting with swords and spears) and babbling wordiness reveal a lack of understanding of what moves the heart of God.

Instead, Jesus taught us to pray humbly, sincerely, and obediently because God already knows what we need. See Matthew 6 (The Lord’s Prayer) and 26 (Jesus’ prayer in the garden). Did you hear that? God already knows what we need! All we need to do is bring it to Him in prayer. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray like this:

“Our Father, Who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”