Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today's Old Testament reading is one of my favorites (1 Kings 18:20-40). There are 450 prophets of Baal against 1 solitary prophet of the LORD--not exactly great odds.
The duel is set up to see whose god is the true God. Set up an altar with a sacrifice, but like toys that come without batteries, the prophets are not allowed to provide the fire for the sacrifice. Whichever god answers the call to send down fire for the sacrifice will prove himself to be the true God.
After setting up the sacrifice, the prophets of Baal called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, "O Baal, answer us!" But there was no voice, and no one answered (verse 26).
Elijah mocks the empty prayers with sarcasm: "Cry aloud for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened" (verse 27).
After a final display of desperation, the harsh reality is given: ...there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
Of course Elijah is vindicated as his soaking wet sacrifice is swallowed up by a mighty flame. And while we give thanks that the true God hears the cries of his people, what is sad about this story is the situation of those who chase after other gods.
Like a phone that just keeps ringing, with nobody on the other end, prayers offered to anyone or anything other than the living God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--are not heard and not answered.
Imagine dedicating your life to a deep spirituality only to wake up one morning and find out that it was a sham. Consider the plight of a broken and tired world that cries out in its distress, but whose cries fail to penetrate the ears of anyone.
And yet, in an instant, the very same prayers may be heard if they are offered through the one greater than Moses, the one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).
And so we pray for our unbelieving friends and family members. We pray that through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit would swoop down and burn up the unbelief that exists in their hearts. We pray that they would know the love of the heavenly Father as revealed through the death and resurrection of His only-begotten Son. We pray that their empty and silent prayers would be turned to faithful and beautiful petitions offered in faith, trusting in the One from whom all blessing flow.
We pray that the God who swallowed up a soaked sacrifice would plant faith where unbelief exists, and open his ears to the prayers of a broken and tired world. For only then will they know the consolation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.