Yesterday in our homeschool Bible reading, we got to one of the best-known stories of Elijah--where he challenged the 450 priests of Baal to an alter competition. (Okay, my words, not theirs, LOL.) You remember it, I'm sure. The priests of Baal build their alter, put on their bullock, pray and pray and pray to Baal for fire to come down from heaven and light the alter.
Nothing. I love this story partially because of how Elijah taunts them. Can't you just see that wily smile as he says, "Maybe your god's asleep. Or on vacation. Cry louder."
And they do, LOL. Then, of course, after that fails, Elijah builds his alter on the exact spot it should have been all these years, puts on his bullock, and has TWELVE barrels of water dumped onto the alter. Now, it hasn't rained for years and years at this point, so that was probably some precious stuff. Elijah prayed, and fire swooshed down from heaven, devoured the offering, the water, and the very stones.
But something new jumped out at me yesterday. After the priests of Baal were killed, after everyone fled, Elijah and his servant prayed again. See, it was time for the promised rain to come. Time for the drought to end. Time to bring relief for the people.
So Elijah fell to his knees and beseeched God. God, the Lord, who had just an hour earlier sent heavenly fire for him. God, the Lord, who had led him here. God, the Lord, who had promised, "And then you'll pray again, and I'll send the rains."
Elijah prayed. And his servant looked out over the sea and said, "Nothing. Not a cloud on the horizon."
So Elijah prayed again. Still, there was nothing. So he prayed again. And again. And again. And again. Each time, his servant went to check the horizon. Each time, he saw . . . absolutely . . . nothing.
This is what hit me. Seven times Elijah had to pray before that mist began to rise out of the sea. Seven times! Do you think he was wondering what was taking so long? I mean, the fire had been immediate. So why the wait now? Why was God not listening? Had He changed His mind and not told Elijah? Can you imagine that prophet looking over his shoulder and thinking, "Wow, glad all those priests aren't watching this now."
Okay, so Elijah may not have had those thoughts, LOL, but I probably would have. I probably would have thought round about prayer number four, "God, You promised! You promised!! 'Pray for rain,' You said, 'and I'll make it rain.' Well, I'm praying--so where's the rain?!"
But Elijah was faithful. We don't know how long each of these prayers was, but I have a feeling it was a little more in depth than, "Oh, Lord, please let it rain!" ;-) This man was prostrate before the Lord, begging. Begging for the rains to come.
What if he had given up? What if he said, "Sigh. Maybe the Lord doesn't want me to be a prophet anymore."? Had he only prayed, say, five times, what would have become of Israel?
Doubt, discouragement is natural--the very next day, when Elijah hears that Jezebel is out to kill him, he forgets to pray and just runs. Runs. Even though God sent the fire, sent the rain, Elijah doesn't even think to ask him to save his life. But God catches up with him on the mountain he runs to, after sustaining him during the run.
God's always there while we're running. He's there while we're hiding in the cave. He's there while we're praying, stirring up the mists, even though we can't see them yet. He's there. Not in the whirlwind, not in the earthquake . . . in the whisper. In the whisper is the voice of the Lord, just waiting for us to quiet up enough to hear Him. Waiting for us to listen. Waiting for us to wait upon Him.
How many times have we prayed for the same thing? How many times do we not see it happen and get discouraged?
But the Lord is stirring up the mists in the sea while we pray. He's working in the mysteries we can't understand, working within our world, our time, our reality so that everything will line up just so for us. We can't see all that--our eyes are only human.
But He's there. Preparing the rain.
Our part is to stay on our knees until we see it.