Elijah has challenged the prophets of Baal to prove they worship the true God. He says, “You go first.”
1 Kings 18:25-27 “Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’ So the took the bull given them and prepared it. ‘ Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ the shouted.’ But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon, Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought or busy or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’”
Elijah starts getting sarcastic and it’s something every preacher and prophet has to watch out for. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, between faith and pride and it’s so easy to keep crossing over it
1 Kings 18:28-29 “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”
I just hate when that happens, don’t you? When we’re going through a very difficult crisis and we can’t seem to get the Lord’s attention; when we’re worried and afraid, when we’re desperate; when we humble ourselves; when we fast and pray with boldness and confidence; when we shout to the Lord, when we shout at the Lord; when we sit quietly and wait and when we get up and act with faith. We do everything we can think of, everything we’ve been taught to do, everything we’ve always told others to do and nothing seems to work.
There is no response. God does not answer and He doesn’t seem to be paying attention. It must not be His will. Maybe I don’t have enough faith. Eventually we start asking ourselves, “Why even bother to pray?”
Whenever we find ourselves in a situation like that, where our prayers don’t seem to be getting through, there are two possible explanations for it. Either we’re praying to the wrong god, or we’re praying at the wrong altar. Either the god we’re praying to can’t give us what we’re asking for or what we’re asking for is not available at the altar we’re praying from.
We might be kneeling at the altar of faith where without faith it’s impossible to please the God of this altar; where nothing is impossible if we’ll keep trusting the God of this altar and use the faith He’s given us. We might be kneeling at the altar of faith fervently demanding visible proof. Lord, please do something! Show me that you’re really there. Convince me that you still love me. Give me what I’m asking for.
When we’re kneeling at the altar of faith praying for visible proof, the God of that altar can’t give us what we’re asking for because what we’re asking for isn’t available at the altar we’re praying from. We can’t hear Him saying, “Just keep trusting me and let me do this my way.”
We might be kneeling at the altar of self-sacrifice, where the God of this altar demands that we give up everything, let go of everything that used to be so valuable and important to us, the things we think we know, the things that come first in our lives. We might be kneeling at the altar of self-sacrifice praying for self-gratification.
Our prayers might sound a little like the prodigal son who said, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” Your word says I’m a joint heir with Jesus so give me what is rightfully mine. Give me what you’ve promised. Heal me. Provide for my needs. Do all those things you said you would do for me. When we’re kneeling at the altar of self-sacrifice praying for self-gratification, the God of that altar won’t give us what we’re asking for because what we’re asking for isn’t available at the altar we’re praying from.
We might be kneeling at the altar of unconditional surrender where the God of this altar has said that anyone who wants to be a disciple must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. We might be kneeling at the altar of unconditional surrender placing all kinds of conditions on how much surrender we’re willing to give; how much of our time, how much of our money, how much of ourselves we’re willing to let Christ have; how much is His and how much is ours. How much commitment is enough commitment to satisfy the God of this altar?
When we’re kneeling at the altar of unconditional surrender placing all kinds of conditions on how much surrender we’re willing to make, the God we’re praying to won’t give us what we’re asking for because what we’re asking for is not available at the altar we’re praying from.
We can pray. We can fast. We can dance. We can shout. We can praise or we can weep but there will be no response, no one will answer because no one is paying attention because no conditions are acceptable at the altar of unconditional surrender. In order for our prayers to be heard, in order for prayer to be answered, we need to be aware of the God we’re praying to and the altar we’re praying from because THE ALTAR IS THE ONE PLACE WE CAN’T HAVE OUR OWN WAY.
1 Kings 18:30 “Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him and he repaired the altar of the Lord which was in ruins.”
What those prophets told you was wrong. What you’ve always believed isn’t true. What you’ve been trusting in isn’t working for you. If you’re not getting results from where you’re standing; if the foundation of your life keeps shifting and crumbling, if it can’t give you what you need, if it can’t save you; if the emptiness inside you is not being filled, you need another altar. Your life needs a more solid foundation. “Come here to me.” Come to the Bread of Life. Come to the solid Rock.
There is another altar. By grace, we’ve been given another way. There is someone who will hear and answer your prayers; someone who will always be there for you and will never fail or disappoint you. There is someone who loves you with a love you’ve never experienced before, a love you never even imagined was possible.
It’s a love none of us deserves or could possibly earn. There is someone who can help you discover why you’re alive and make you thankful that you are. There is someone who wants you to live a productive and satisfying life, life with a purpose, a life filled with joy; someone who wants you to live with Him forever. His name is Jesus and He is Lord of all.