1 Kings 18:36-39:
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.”
The story of Elijah on Mt Carmel is well known to most. The story is a favorite of many but for the purposes of this sermon I want to focus on the prayer he prays before the fire falls. It is a very courageous prayer. He is placing himself as well as God on the line and he knows the stakes are high. We also know thanks to James and Elijah’s history that he was simply a man like any other man. I suspect as he is praying it there is a knot in his stomach.
For an act to be courageous I has to involve risk to self and there can be no plan B. Elijah’s prayer reflects that. If he fails, he will be killed. It is an all or nothing prayer. If God does not consume the sacrifice with fire, Elijah is out of luck. He has already made the situation more difficult but soaking the sacrifice with water. Elijah is staking everything on God coming through. This is what I means to pray with courage.
Looking back at your prayer life, how many of your prayers have possessed this kind of courage? I can count mine on one hand but I would also have to note that those were the prayers that got the greatest results. The more our faith is also coupled with courage as we pray, the greater the results. It makes me wonder if this is not the reason that so many prayers are unanswered, not because of a lack of faith, but because of a lack of courage. If you can do what you’re praying about without risk then is it really something that needs prayer or just for you to act.
I think sometimes our prayers are too safe. We prayer for things that are easy or if we simply wait they will change. To pray for something that without God will not happen and involves risk to ourselves is difficult. We like to be safe and not rock the boat. To pray with courage requires us to embrace risk and to stand out. The choice is one of acting despite our fears or to succumb to our fears. The choice is yours.