As we continue our devotional tour of the Holy Land, we’re heading further north along the Mediterranean coast, this time to the top of Mount Carmel. It’s a beautiful spot where a powerful story took place about 3,000 years ago.
To hear a summary of the story in under two minutes, including how it applies to your life today, click the link to the video below. Then continue reading the rest of the message below that to learn how God can answer your prayers in extraordinary ways, even though you may feel like just an “ordinary person.”
So what happened on Mount Carmel? That’s where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a dramatic showdown. Many of the Israelites had strayed from God, worshiping Baal and Asherah instead. The situation had gotten so bad that God told Elijah to go to the Israelite king, Ahab, and tell him:
“…there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1b).
So Elijah told this to Ahab and the rain stopped. All of Israel began to suffer. But neither Ahab nor the people turned back to God. After three and a half years, God told Elijah to go back to Ahab and tell him that the rain was about to come again.
Elijah went to Ahab and told him to meet him on Mount Carmel, where the dramatic showdown took place, and where God would answer Elijah’s prayers in a way that convinced the Israelites to turn their hearts back to God. It was after this that Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, bent down to the ground to pray, and by the end of the day, the rain poured down.
It’s one of the coolest stories in the Old Testament, and if you haven’t read it yet, or haven’t read it in awhile, I’d like to encourage you to read the whole thing sometime this week. You’ll find it in the book of 1 Kings, chapters 17-19.
While there are tons of helpful and encouraging lessons from these chapters—ranging from how God can provide for your needs even during a famine to how God can give you the courage you need to do some very difficult things—the lesson I’d like to focus on today deals with the question of why God sometimes answers your prayers and other times doesn’t—or at least not in the way you expected.
Sometimes God can knock your socks off with His answers to your prayers, like He did with Elijah’s prayers on Mount Carmel. The book of James even holds up Elijah’s story as an example of just how powerful prayer can be. James says:
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:16b-18).
So Elijah was human, just like us, and God heard and answered his prayers in a powerful way. Yet did you know that not long after this event, Elijah prayed another prayer—one that he seems to have prayed as earnestly as the one before—yet God didn’t do what Elijah asked?
This other prayer took place after the showdown at Mount Carmel, when Elijah had to run for his life because Ahab’s wife had vowed to hunt Elijah down until he was dead. So Elijah ran as far as he could until he he was thoroughly exhausted. The Bible says,
“He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord. Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kings 19:4b).
Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
But God didn’t answer this prayer, at least in the way that Elijah wanted Him to answer it. God didn’t take his life. God wanted Elijah to live, for God still had more for Elijah to do with his life.
So God sent Elijah an angel. The angel woke him up and gave him something warm to eat. After eating two of these angel-cooked meals, Elijah gained enough strength to travel another forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. And it was there on Mount Horeb that God Himself appeared to Elijah in a very personal way,
“…in a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12b).
God didn’t give Elijah what he wanted, but He gave him something much better: an angel of encouragement, strength for the journey, and a one-on-one visit with Elijah himself.
I want to encourage you today that God can answer your prayers as dramatically and powerfully as He answered Elijah’s prayers for rain. But God can also answer your prayers like He answered Elijah’s second prayer, not necessarily giving you what you want or expect, but giving you something truly better.
God loves you. He cares about your life. And He has things that He truly wants to do in and through your life. Keep praying earnestly that God’s will would be done here on earth, through you, just as God’s will was done through Elijah’s prayers at Mount Carmel.
Father, thank You for Elijah’s example of what it means to pray earnestly for Your will to be done. Give us Your wisdom and insight into the situations in our lives today so that we can pray for Your will to be done in them as well. We love You and thank You for hearing our prayers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.