Old Testament Prophets & Prayer

March 24, 1996
Brother John Raymond

	Having been sidetracked for a while I wish to return to The
 Catechism of the Catholic Church on prayer. We left off at King
 David in the Old Testament. Now we turn to the prophets, especially
 Elijah the "'father' of the prophets." (#2582)
	For the Chosen People of God the Temple was the place of prayer.
 It was to the Temple that they made pilgrimages, celebrated feasts,
 offered sacrifices, etc. All of these outward signs educated the
 people in prayer. They learned both that God is holy and at the same
 time near to them. Unfortunately, an emphasis on ritualism brought
 with it the tendency to reduce prayer only to external worship. The
 prophets called the people to a deepening of their faith and a
 conversion of heart.
	Elijah's life is interesting to read and we can learn a great
 deal from it. As with many biblical figures, his name has
 significance for his mission. The name Elijah means "The Lord is my
 God." Certainly, he stood true to his name when he challenged the
 850 prophets of the false gods. Imagine those odds__850 to 1! Talk
 about confidence in God! Elijah wanted to prove to the people that
 the Lord is God and there is no other. He had these false prophets
 gather for a contest. Both he and they would call on their gods to
 send fire from heaven to consume their animal offering that has been
 laid on top of a pile of wood. The false prophets danced around from
 morning until noon calling on their god with no results. Elijah had
 a little fun with them for their foolishness by saying, "Perhaps he
 (their god) is asleep and must be awakened." (1 Kings 18,27) To
 build up to a more dramatic climax, Elijah had men throw water on
 the wood and animal offering as well as dig a trench around it and
 fill it with water. Then in contrast to the false prophets who had
 been dancing around for half-a-day with no results, Elijah simply
 prayed, "O Lord, 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 Lord,
 answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God, and
 that You have turned their hearts back." (1 Kings 18:36-37)
 Immediately fire came from Heaven and consumed the animal offering,
 the wood, the stone, dust and water in the trench. I think this was
 enough to convince the people that the God of Israel was the only
 God! "St. James refers to Elijah in order to encourage us to pray:
 'The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.'" (#2582)
	Elijah taught a widow to trust in God's Word after she shared her
 last meal with him during a draught. God promised it would be
 miraculously multiplied until the draught ended and it was. Also,
 his intercessory prayer confirmed the widow in her faith when he
 brought her son back to life. (1 Kings 17:8-24)
	Although Elijah had a few high points, he had a low one, too. The
 king was seeking his life so he fled into the wilderness. At one
 point he settled under a tree and asked God to take his life.
 Instead God sent an angel to strengthen him with a food that enabled
 him to walk forty days and nights to Mount Horeb. (1 Kings 19:1-10)
 After this low point Elijah has a unique experience of God Whom he
 discovers not in an earthquake or in a fire but in a "still small
 voice." (1 Kings 19:11-13)
	Elijah, as well as the other prophets, draw the light and
 strength for their mission from their intimate encounter with God.
 "Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather
 attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an
 argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that
 awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord
 of history." (#2584) Let us ask Elijah, certainly a great saint and
 man of prayer, to help us in our pilgrimage of faith and prayer.