Today we continue our series, The Agony of Victory. This morning we will look at some reasons why God answers prayer:
1. To demonstrate His presence
2. To demonstrate His power
3. To show His position
4. For the good of His people
You could sum up these reasons into one overarching point: God answers prayer for His glory.
His Presence: He wants us to know that He is with us and we belong to Him. He has promised to protect and keep us and provide for us. Jesus said He would never leave or forsake us.
His Power: He has all power and is able to overcome any perceived obstacle He chooses. The things we think are impossible are a simple thought for Him to achieve.
His Position: He is above every other god and there is no oner thing like Him – no one and nothing else can even come close to Him. He is the greatest and will not share His glory.
His People: God answers prayer to build the faith of His people. He answers prayer to encourage and lead us.
We see this beautifully laid out in 1 Kings 18. In this account, we have the battle of the gods. But it was not so much a battle because there is only one true God. The story is an account of God answering a strategic prayer by Elijah.
The story takes place during a difficult time for Israel. The nation had been divided into two, the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom was ruled by a series of bad kings, kings who not only rejected the God of Israel but worshipped false gods, causing much trouble for Israel. Ahab was king at this time and his father, Omri, sealed a treaty with the King of Phoenicia by accepting his daughter, Jezebel, as a wife for his son.
Jezebel hated the God of Israel but loved Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility. She was determined to replace the worship of Yahweh with Baal worship, and she persecuted Yahweh worshippers unceasingly. Not only did Ahab the king not intervene, he supported her by building a temple to Baal in Samaria, the capital.
Those who worshipped Baal did many wicked things in the sight of God in hopes that Baal would help them. The Prophet Elijah worshipped Yahweh, the God of Israel, and objected to Baal worship in any form as a violation of Israel’s covenant with God (Exodus 20:3). He challenged everything that the people believed about Baal. He started his prophetic ministry by confronting Baal on his own turf, proclaiming a drought in the name of God – remember that Baal was the God of rain (Exodus 17:1-7).
So Elijah prayed to the God of Israel that the rain would cease, demonstrating Yahweh’s power over the god of the Canaanites. It had not rained for three and half years since Elijah had prayed. King Ahab was mad at him and the prophets of Baal were mad at him and the people did not know what to do. So Elijah called all the people together and all the priest of Baal, and he said to them:
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:21
The people were confused and probably afraid of Jezebel and Ahab. She was killing worshippers of God, and Elijah was asking them to choose between following God and following Baal – they did not want to die.
As we mentioned earlier, God answers prayer to demonstrate His presence with His people, His power to overcome the impossible, His position over any other so-called god, and to increase the faith or belief of His people. This was a great time for Elijah to pray, and so he called for a prayer challenge.
He asked the people to build two altars with two sacrifices, and to pray for their god to consume the sacrifice. They prayed and danced and yelled all day, but nothing happened. Elijah told the priests to pray louder, but still Baal did not answer them and their sacrifice did not burn. When they were exhausted and worn out, Elijah told the people he would pray to God and that God would answer them. He drenched the altar and the sacrifice with water, and then prayed for God to bring down fire and burn the sacrifice. He prayed:
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word….At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.” 1 Kings 18:21, 36-39
God sent down fire from heaven, the fire consumed the altar and the sacrifice, and the people saw the power of God. Do you need to be reminded of God’s presence, His power, His position, that you belong to Him? You need to pray. Maybe you are in the place of the Israelites today and you are living in fear and doubt and you need someone else to pray for you? Let us pray for you this morning. Maybe there is someone you need to pray for to strengthen their faith? Maybe God is calling you to be Elijah to your family or friends, to take a step of faith and boldly pray.
Elijah did not try to convince or convert the people to belief in God; he brought them to a point where they were ready to decide. He prayed and God did the work. Are there people you need to begin to pray for that God would demonstrate His power, presence, and position to them? Record that in your prayer journal and share it with someone else for encouragement. Listen to what James writes about Elijah:
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:17-18
Prayer is not just about us – it is about Jesus, who He is, what He has done and what He is doing. It is an intentional act of faith, where we submit our will to His, for the advancement of His Kingdom.
Community Group Discussion Questions
- Read the back story in 1 Kings 17 and the subsequent encounter with Ahab in 1 Kings 18. God used prayer to demonstrate His power, presence and position to Israel. He also increased their faith.
- How does God use prayer in our lives?
- Are we encouraged to pray more when we see answers to prayer?
- Does anyone have answers to prayer that they would like to share?
- How do you see the faith of Israel change?
- Why do you think it did not change during the drought?
- What caused the people of Israel to hesitate following Elijah? (fear – fear of Jezebel, the circumstances, fear is opposite of faith. Without faith it impossible to please God)