What is the name of the God you pray to? We know it’s important to identify who we’re talking to; that’s why we have caller ID. If I don’t know who it is, I don’t pick up. Would you like to know God “picks up” when you call?
A long time ago in Israel the people had a choice of which God to call on. They were in a desperate situation. No rain had fallen on the land in over 3 years. They were running out of food to eat, and they had to turn their farm animals loose because they couldn’t water them.
The prophet Elijah told the people Israel’s God, the Lord, Yahweh, was the true and living God and they needed to worship only him. But the people were not so sure. There were hundreds of prophets telling them to worship Baal. Baal was known as the god of storms, rain, lightening and thunder. The people were afraid that if they stopped praying to Baal it would never rain. They couldn’t make up their minds, so God told Elijah to help them.
Elijah set up a contest on top of a mountain and called all the people to come watch. The prophets of Baal came, all 450 of them. Elijah brought two bulls. He gave one to the Baal prophets to kill and burn as an offering to their god. BUT they could not light the fire; no matches or lighters. They had to call on Baal to come down and consume the bull. Elijah would call on Yahweh to light the fire under his bull. Whichever god sent fire would show he was the true god.
This should have been easy for Baal, because he was supposed to be the god of lighting. One bolt would do it. So Elijah sat down and watched them call on Baal to light their fire.
Elijah sat and watched all morning, and so did the huge crowd, but nothing happened. Around noon Elijah started to ask them where Baal was.
“You better yell louder,” Elijah said. “Maybe he’s asleep and you need to wake him up.”
The prophets yelled as loud as they could, dancing around the altar. But nothing. No one answered.
“Do you think he’s away? “ Elijah taunted. “Maybe he’s on vacation. Or maybe he had to go to the bathroom.”
Finally the prophets got knives and cut themselves until their faces, arms and legs were covered in blood. They thought that would bring Baal, who liked the smell of blood. But nothing happened.
When it was time for the traditional evening sacrifice to Yahweh, Elijah told everyone to come watch him.
Elijah had gallons and gallons of water poured all over his bull, sticks and stone altar until the water ran everywhere. There was no way anyone could light that fire. What was he thinking?
Then Elijah prayed, “O Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Yahweh, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Yahweh, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
When he finished praying fire from Yahweh fell. It burned up the bull. It burned all the sticks and the stones of the altar. It even licked up the water. Nothing remained, not one drop of water. The people fell down and worshiped Yahweh. And the bogus prophets ran away in fear. A few hours later it started to rain hard.
Once in a village just outside Jerusalem Jesus stood in a contest. The people could not decide who he was, even though he had told them. So he stood outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus who had been dead for four days. There was a large crowd, and when Jesus asked for the door to the tomb to be rolled away, everyone expected a horrible stench to come out.
But Jesus prayed, ““Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Then Jesus yelled, “Lazarus, come out!”
The surprised crowd fell silent. But the silence was pierced by the joyful shrieks from Lazarus’ sisters as they ran to embrace him.
Some persons standing there believed in Jesus, that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. But the sad thing is, others didn’t. And some even plotted to kill Jesus, which they did.
We all have to choose to whom we pray. And it matters.
God says to us, “Call on me in a day of trouble; I will rescue you, and you will honor me.” (Psalms 50:15 ,CSB)