The importance of prayer in the fulfillment of a prophetic word (case study, 1st Kings 18)
There is the tendency for believers to think that once a prophetic word goes forth then it is reason enough to go to sleep or literally sit and wait for the word to come to pass. However, a careful study of this chapter (1Kings 18) and other passages in the bible would reveal that a prophetic word is actually ‘a prayer topic’ or a prayer guide. As Paul told his spiritual son Timothy in 1st Timothy 1:18:
“ This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare’’.
The phrase ‘good warfare’ in the verse quoted above almost implies that without the prophetic word released on Timothy’s life, he was going to wage a bad warfare in prayer. A ‘bad warfare’ could also mean a warfare that lacks direction, probably not in the will of God and therefore would yield minimal or zero results. But when a prophetic word is pronounced over one’s life, this person is empowered with divine insight concerning future matters to know what to pray for and what to pray against because he/she has received a prophecy that indicates what to expect in the near or distant future.
In the chapter under discussion, the word of the LORD came to Elijah saying: “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth’’. This prophecy can be divided into two parts: the first one is the responsibility that Elijah was given by God and the second is God’s responsibility towards fulfilling the word. The instruction God gave Elijah was for him to go and present himself to Ahab. The assumption is that once Elijah has carried out his responsibility then what is left is for God to move and send rain on the earth. But that wasn’t exactly what happened.
Later in the same chapter, after Elijah had proven to the people that the LORD was more powerful than Baal, this is what he told King Ahab, “go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain” (1 Kings 18:41). The prophet was simply telling the king to go and make merry or celebrate the fact that there was rain coming. His exact words were ‘… for there is the sound of abundance of rain’. Prophets are known to be people specially gifted with heightened spiritual senses. Hence, if Elijah said there was the sound of abundance of rain, then maybe he could hear this sound with his ears (spiritually). This was enough proof that the rain was surely coming and that he had every right to probably join the king to eat and drink in anticipation of the end of the drought. But no, that wasn’t what happened.
After Ahab left the presence of Elijah, the prophet travailed in prayer in such a posture that it appeared he was petitioning God to do that which the LORD hadn’t intended to do. The bible describes Elijah as bowing to the ground and putting his head in between his knees. That is a very uncomfortable position to be in. However, this was the prophet’s prayer posture. He sent his servant 7 times to check if the rain had started. This indicates wrestling in prayer; it indicates determination and persistence in prayer until the desired result manifests. This should be our attitude towards praying about prophecies we receive. It is not the time to go to sleep. It is time to wage a good warfare. I hope you noticed that the prophet told the king to go and eat and drink in wait of the fulfilment of the prophecy but he didn’t join in the merry making. This was because the primary recipient of the prophetic word was the prophet and it was his responsibility to wage a good warfare until the prophecy came to pass.
Earlier, I mentioned that Elijah proved to the people that God was more powerful than Baal. This is how he did it. Elijah threw a challenge to 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah on Mount Carmel. The challenge was for them to slaughter a bull and call on their gods (he would do the same) and whichever ‘god’ responded by sending down fire to consume the ‘sacrifice’ was to be regarded as the true God. He called for this challenge because the people had become divided on the issue of which god to follow. Elijah posed this question to the people, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21, NKJV). I found the ESV’s translation of this verse to be more interesting. It said “how long will you go limping between two different opinions?”. This paints a perfect picture of lukewarmness. It suggests that these people were neither here nor there by deceiving themselves that they were both here and there at the same time. By not choosing one position, they had chosen both positions at the same time, which is no position at all. Because of this, Elijah had to prove to them that God is greater than Baal so that they could make up their minds.
The prophets of Baal, prepared their bull and called on the name of Baal from morning till noon and there was no response. They limped around the altar on which the bull was laid in a bid to get the attention of Baal, also to no avail. Elijah began mocking them. He asked them to shout louder for Baal was probably meditating, busy, on a journey or asleep. The part where Elijah states that Baal might have been busy doing something else is translated differently by some versions of the bible. Some actually quote Elijah as saying that Baal was probably relieving himself at the time his prophets were trying to call on him. If it is so, then, it appears Elijah resorted to crude joking and sarcasm just to make the point that Baal was no god at all.
When it was his turn, Elijah prepared the bull and put it on his altar. His altar was made up of 12 stones: each representing one of the 12 tribes of Israel. He dug a trench around the altar as well. He asked the people to fill four jars with water and pour it on the altar 3 times. At this point the bull was probably soaking wet and according to the account the water filled the trench he had dug around the altar. After all this, then Elijah said a very short prayer. In comparison to what the prophets of Baal did, it seems Elijah spent more time preparing the ‘sacrifice’ than he spent praying and calling on the LORD. The words he said in the middle of this prayer are of great interest to me and of grave importance to the topic under discussion. He said, “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”. This implies that every single thing Elijah did in this contest he heard it from the LORD. The confidence he exuded while taunting the prophets of Baal was because he had received a sure word from the LORD that indicated that he was going to win the contest. Therefore, the procedure he followed in preparing the altar for the bull and even the water that was poured on it were all prophetic instructions from the LORD. Despite this fact, he still prayed before the fire came down.
Receiving prophetic instructions from God and carrying them out alone didn’t produce the desired results. Elijah still had to pray for fire to come down after obeying the word of the LORD that came to him.
When you receive a prophecy, you have received divine insight to assist you in waging a good warfare. When you receive prophetic instructions, it doesn’t always mean you will receive your heart’s desires right after you carry them out. You need to pray, give thanks to God, and ask him to do that which he has promised to do. The idea that receiving a prophetic word means it is time to go to sleep while the word automatically comes to pass is not consistent with scripture. In the Bible, people prayed earnestly for prophecies to come to pass and we should learn to do the same.
Credit: Feature image by @frankfmx on Instagram