1 Kings 18:20-46; Acts 12:1-19; Psalms 136:1-12; Proverbs 28:27-28
OT: “Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Since you are so numerous, choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first. Then call on the name of your god but don’t light the fire.” So they took the bull that he gave them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no sound; no one answered. Then they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them. He said, “Shout loudly, for he’s a god! Maybe he’s thinking it over; maybe he has wandered away; or maybe he’s on the road. Perhaps he’s sleeping and will wake up!” They shouted loudly, and cut themselves with knives and spears, according to their custom, until blood gushed over them. All afternoon they kept on raving until the offering of the evening sacrifice, but there was no sound; no one answered, no one paid attention… At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, the prophet Elijah approached the altar and said, “ Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant, and that at your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell facedown and said, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!”” (1 Kings 18:25-29, 36-39 CSB)
Psalm 115 says that the idols of the nations, which are made by human hands with silver and gold, have ears but do not hear. Our God is the true and living God – and He hears the prayers of those who fear Him and walk according to His word, will, and ways. We see that demonstrated clearly in this story from 1 Kings. Elijah challenged the priests and prophets of Baal to a contest to see who was truly the God of all. All day long the priests and prophets of Baal called out to him to answer. The later it got, the more frantic their efforts. They did everything they could think of to try and get Baal’s attention, even cutting themselves and offering their own blood. On the other hand, Elijah quietly built the altar, presented the sacrifice, doused everything in gallons of water, then simply (but boldly) asked God to answer and prove Himself to the crowd. God heard Elijah and answered in a most convincing way. As faithful followers of the Lord, we don’t have to wonder if God hears us. In fact, Jesus told us several times, that if we keep His word and obey His commandments, God will hear what we ask for and will answer. Why is it then, in some of our gatherings and worship services, do we act more like the priests of Baal than Elijah? In some circles of the church, worship has become more about trying to do enough to call down God from heaven than to simply approach Him in boldness and faith. I understand passion – but there is a difference between earnest and sincere passion and theatrics. God is not impressed with our theatrics, but He is moved when we, in faith, approach Him humbly and worship Him in spirit and truth.
NT: “About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was praying fervently to God for him. When Herod was about to bring him out for trial, that very night Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while the sentries in front of the door guarded the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, “Quick, get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. “Get dressed,” the angel told him, “and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Wrap your cloak around you,” he told him, “and follow me.” So he went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening, but he thought he was seeing a vision. After they passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street, and suddenly the angel left him.” (Acts 12:1-10 CSB)
The key to this miracle was that the church was fervently praying to God for Peter. The Greek word that is translated here as fervent could also be translated as constant or without ceasing. It is earnest prayer that continues until an answer comes. The Apostle James (not the James that was executed in this story) wrote in James 5:16, that the effective and fervent prayer of a righteousness person accomplishes much. James’ example of an effective fervent prayer was that of Elijah, when he prayed for an end to the years long famine. Elijah didn’t jump up and down and hoot and holler to try and get God’s attention. He knew what God was going to do, so he bowed down with his face between his knees, and asked God in faith to bring rain… and when rain didn’t come after the first prayer, he kept praying in faith until a cloud appeared on the horizon. That’s how the church prayed for Peter: they prayed in faith to God, and kept praying until they got an answer. That is how we should pray as well. We don’t have to make a big scene and try to get God to pay attention to us. If we are walking faithfully with the Lord, we can be assured that He hears us – so we can pray to Him in faith and keep praying in faith until we receive an answer. Sometimes that answer comes right away. Sometimes that answer takes years… but it will come if we pray fervently in faith, according to His word, will, and ways.