The Prayers of One
22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
As we continue to study prayer throughout the Bible, the title of my message is, [The Power of One].
How much power does one person have?
Can one person really make a difference?
People often want to focus on the BIG crowd. The emphasis is often on the how many people come. After all, one is the loneliest number!
But often, the when the big crowds disperse, people begin to see the importance of ONE. Something happened in China in 1989 that I want to discuss.
On April 15, 1989, after the death of a reform-minded leader in Communist China, 50,000 to 100,000 students flooded Tiananmen (Tea, ehn, on, muhn) Square in Beijing.
They led a pro-democracy protest that lasted for one month, two weeks, and six days. The crowd was large and caught the government’s attention.
Finally, the leaders had enough. The government gave following directives:
Martial Law will begin on June 3 at 4:30 pm
Tanks will come to Tiananmen Square at 1:00 am on June 4
The square was to be empty by 6:00 am
Delays and impeding troops was unacceptable and could be met with necessary force
One eyewitness remembered, “the tank was suddenly right in my face. It happened so fast. The tank did not hesitate. It just rolled over me. I was conscious. I could feel that I was being dragged because my trousers were stuck.”
All in all, the plan worked and the square cleared. On June 5, the tanks started to leave. But ONE lone man, holding two grocery bags, stood and blocked the column of four tanks.
A picture was taken and quickly spread around the world. It was one of the most published photos of the twentieth century. However, the identity of the individual remains unknown.
He is simply called the Tank Man. He became a symbol for pro-democracy protests. No one knows what happened to him. There is no record if he is dead or alive.
But the Communist government has worked diligently over the past thirty-two years to sensor the story from their history.
One individual explained, “those under the age of forty in China know nothing of the event and people over forty dare not speak of the massacre of the man.”
What would cause such a militant effort to erase this man from their history? They want to keep people in the dark on the power of ONE.
On Mother’s Day of this year, I preached a message entitled, Out of Many, One. The point I made was of the MANY people who pray, God hears each of us as though we’re the ONLY one praying.
At the start of this year, I asked Jesus to teach me how to pray. I have pondered and reflected on prayer. And I noticed:
where two or three are gathered in His name, He is in the midst
there were 120 on the day of Pentecost
But can ONE person change a situation?
Does God need EVERYONE to pray or will the prayers of ONE work?
The question seems like a no brainer, but I have asked myself over and over, can one person really make a difference?
Scripture tells us of groups or crowds:
Adam had Eve
Noah had his family
Jacob had twelve sons
Moses had Aaron, Joshua, and seventy elders
Joshua had Caleb and large armies
David had Jonathan and Nathan
Jesus had the twelve, and He sent them out two by two
Do the prayers of ONE really work? If ONE person is the only person praying about something, how can it come to pass?
Then I came upon the prophet Elijah. In our text we read that he was the ONLY prophet of God left in Israel. God used the prayer life of ONE man to change a nation.
There are times in our walk with God, when we might feel that we are the only person praying about a situation. The enemy will creep in and tell us that God won’t listen to just us.
But I want us to see there is power in the prayers of ONE!
Elijah shows us this. Let’s look at 1 Kings 18 in three parts, [An Injustice], [An Inquiry], and [An Invitation].
1. An Injustice
1. An Injustice
17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
An injustice is defined as an unjust act or occurence.
The word injustice describes Israel at this point in their history. The injustice was not political or economic in nature. No, they endured years of spiritual injustice.
Prophets of God were murdered
Witchcraft, sorcery, and fortune telling became the norm
Impure relationships with those of the same gender were common
Drunkenness was widespread
Prostitutes cluttered every corner and the Temple
Religion became corrupt
God was mocked
Morality and integrity were non-issues
To summarize, Israel was in deep trouble. After years of backsliding, King Ahab became king and accelerated Israel’s outright contempt for God. He was more evil than any king in history.
True to the nature of a guilty person, Ahab projected his foolishness on Elijah. When Elijah came to him, he called him the troublemaker of Israel.
Because Elijah was a man of prayer, he would not let this accusation go unanswered because of intimidation. Instead, he explained, Ahab, this trouble all started with you. You’ve forsaken God and the judgment Israel endures is your fault.
But God will not allow injustice to go on forever. It had been over three years without dew or rain. The drought destroyed the landscape, killed the livestock, and made it impossible to grow anything.
God was ready to change Israel. He saw the suffering that came from the spiritual injustice. Therefore, He planned to use the prayers of ONE prophet to change Israel.
Elijah called Ahab to sent eh 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah (Uh- sheer- uh) to meet him on the top of Mount Carmel.
After addressing the culprit of Israel’s spiritual injustices, Elijah made...
2. An Inquiry
2. An Inquiry
20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
Ahab sent the many prophets of Baal and Asherah (Uh-sheer-uh) to gather as many of the general public to meet the only ONE prophet of God left.
Standing on Mt. Carmel was two groups. The mountain which was once lush with vegetation, now sat barren and empty, void of life. How symbolic of Israel’s spiritual condition.
The prophet of God looked at the people and inquired, how long will you go back and forth between two opinions?
In other words, how long will they continue to commit spiritual adultery? How long will they continue to turn from God by developing a relationship with false gods?
That day on Mt. Carmel was a day of reckoning. They had to decide, if Baal is really god, serve him, but if the Lord is God, serve Him.
Elijah inquiry was met with utter silence.
No one defended their actions and no one apologized for their foolishness.
So Elijah made a wager with the false prophets. You prepare a sacrifice and I will prepare a sacrifice. You will call out to your gods and I will call out to the Lord.
The God who answers by fire, HE will be God!
Elijah’s inquiry was a no brainer. They had killed so many prophets of God, and there was not retribution. Why not band together, 850 strong, and show this ONE man that he is weak against their large numbers.
26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. 27 And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
I can picture the scene in my head. The arrogantly took their bull, cut it up in pieces and placed it on the altar. Then, 850 voices strong, they called out to Baal.
But there was no answer. So they lifted their voices, going into their demonic cries like so many others who’ve been trapped by the occult.
But by noon, there was no answer.
Elijah inquired, could it be that your god:
maybe he is out of town
perhaps he can’t hear you
Shout louder and really get his attention
Louder and louder they cried. They became so desparate they began to cut themselves with swords until they bled, just trying to get a response from heaven.
But there was no voice, no answer, no one who paid attention.
From morning to noon, and noon until evening, they continued trying to get Baals attention to no avail. Then it was Elijah’s turn.
Could the prayers of ONE work when the LARGE crowd could not get anywhere? Elijah went to work and gave God...
3. An Invitation
3. An Invitation
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.”
Elijah called the crowd to come near him. They all crowded around the altar, but notice, the altar was torn down. After years of no use, it was time to repair the altar.
Remember, in the Old Testament, altars never appear. Someone always built an altar to God. The altar was a place where people met with God.
Seeing the altar was broken lets us know that Israel had not met with God in a long time.
Long before Elijah spoke a word to God, his actions showed he wanted God’s involvement. By building the altar he displayed his desire for God’s supernatural activity.
After rebuilding the altar, he put the altar in order, ready for the sacrifice. He had the wood put on the altar, which was necessary for the fire God would send to continue to burn.
But notice, he did something peculiar. He asked for four waterpots of water. Where were they to get water, they had been in a drought for three years.
Mount Carmel is 1720 feet above the Mediterranean Sea. Though the water was undrinkable, it would do what Elijah needed. They took the water and poured it on the wood and sacrifice, not once, not twice, but three times.
Then he also had a trench built around the altar. Why would Elijah do this, everyone knows water and fire do not mix?
One reason is to show the miraculous power of God, sending fire on wet wood.
Another reason is to prove the fire was from God. False prophets would often build an altar on top of a hole. Someone would be in the hole and light the fire to deceive the onlookers.
Now, everyone knew, if fire comes it will be because of God!
Notice, Elijah has yet to speak to God. But his actions showed his faith in God. The work was done. He rebuilt the altar, he got everything in order, now it was time for his daily meeting with God.
36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.”
It was time for the evening sacrifice. Specifying the time of the sacrifice lets us know that Elijah met with God daily. He did not have an occasional encounter with God. No, he made time for Him everyday.
Then, he prayed a simply pray of faith. In contrast to the false prophets who cried out and harmed themselves, Elijah simply called on God.
He invited the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to prove that Elijah’s work was not in vain. He invited God to bring the people back to Him.
Before we see how God answered, remember the picture. Thousands of people serving Baal and ONE prophet of God left in Israel.
Do the prayers of ONE really work?
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there.
God did not wait to answer Elijah’s invitation. IMMEDIATELY, the fire of God fell. It consumed the sacrifice, licked up the water from the trench, and even turned the stones from the altar into dust.
Once God answered Elijah’s invitation, the people fell to their face and began to invite the Lord into their lives. They declared that the Lord is God.
Baal could NEVER do what God did. The spiritual injustice that had its grip on Israel took a dramatic shift as people returned to the Lord.
But Elijah was not done. He did not just want an emotional encounter for Israel. He wanted to deal with the root cause. He turned to the false prophets and had them killed.
Some might think that was harsh. But if the doctor told us we had a cancerous tumor, and he said, I will remove the tumor, but I would like to let some of the cells stay, just to be nice. We would find a new doctor.
Elijah wanted to reinstate an era of holiness and service to God. Baal and his prophets had to go, all of them!
The prayers of one?
Do they really work?
While God wants EVERYONE to pray, He also hears and answers the prayers of ONE.
Elijah witnessed the spiritual injustice. He made an honest inquiry, how long will we allow this false worship to continue?
Then he made a heavenly invitation and God answered! He sent the fire!
What about us? Will God hear our prayers, even when we feel like we are the ONLY one praying?
Yes, if we do what Elijah did.
We have to rebuild and repair our altar. We need to create a place in our schedule and our lives to meet with God. We must ask, is there an altar in our home, our marriages, and our relationships?
If not, we need to rebuild our family altar. Then, we need to get our house in order. We need to make a sacrifice of praise.
Then we need to have a daily meeting with God. And when we do, God will send the fire.
I want us to notice, the fire did not come because Elijah was a prophet. No, the fire fell because there was an altar prayer. Elijah prioritized meeting with the Lord.
God answers the prayers of ONE. The one whose:
schedule never gets too busy that we do not meet with God
workload never gets too hectic that we do not meet with God
leisure and activities never get so relaxed that we do not meet with God
No, when EACH ONE of us get it into our hearts, my prayers work and are effective, God will answer!
Even if we feel like we’re the only one prayer for:
the salvation of our loved one
the healing in our body
the rescue of our child
the injustice in our world
or for revival in our church
God will answer. How will He answer? He responded by FIRE.
Throughout scripture, God reveals Himself in a flame of fire. Think about it:
Moses saw a burning bush
Israel saw a pillar of faire
Elijah called down fire from heaven and went to heaven in a Chariot of Fire
Jeremiah felt God like a fire shut up in his bones
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego met the fourth man, the son of God, in the fiery furnace
John the Baptizer promised one would come who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire
The 120 each had an individual flame of fire on their heads as they spoke in tongues
And when John was all alone on the Island of Patmos, he had a revelation of Jesus and described Him this way:
14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
We live in a day of injustice, people have little regard for spiritual matters. But God inquires of us today, will we invite Him in to our lives, our church, and our community?
Even when we feel like we are the ONLY one praying, God listens to our prayers and responds with fire. He sends a burning passion for Him that will take over us for— OUR GOD IS AN ALL-CONSUMING FIRE!
So keep praying, keep seeking, keep knocking! And if we ever feel that we are praying ALL ALONE, God uses the prayers of ONE.
The prayers of one prophet sent revival to a nation.
What can the prayers of one person, consumed by God, on fire for the Lord, do?
They can do anything, for our prayer life gives God permission to do what He wants, when He wants, and how He wants!
Out of the MANY who prays, God hears each of us as though we’re the only one praying.
BUt when NO ONE else prays, and we choose to, God hears us and will answer!
Let’s rebuild this altar
Let’s get our lives in order
Let’s meet with God every day
Let’s let God eradicate sin from our lives
Let’s see the fire of God fall on our lives and our church!