They took the ox that was given to them and prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon. They said: “Baal, answer us!” But no voice was heard, nor was there anyone who answered; Meanwhile, they were still jumping around the altar they had made. 1 Kings 18.26
The confrontation between the prophet Elijah and the four hundred prophets of Baal constitutes one of the most daring adventures recorded in the Scriptures. Surely, to you as to me, he is extremely enthusiastic about the great end of this bid between light and darkness.
In today’s reflection, I would like us to concentrate on the difference between the prayers of the prophets of Baal and that of Elijah. It goes without saying that the prayer of the false prophets was destined to fail because they were invoking a non-existent god. Even if they prayed for ten years they would not receive an answer, because there was no one to answer their requests.
The prophets of Baal, however, represent the religious concepts of the world, the same world that presses us and tries to shape our lives. Notice that they began to pray in the morning and continued, without interruption, until noon. In this, they show greater commitment and conviction than most of us. Even without receiving an answer, they continued to cry out, until late in the afternoon, with the same fervor with which they began. What is the feeling that accompanies so energetic clamor? The conviction that the gods are moved by the very weight of prayer. By using the word “weight” I am not referring to the spiritual depth of our prayers, but to the burden that results from the abundance of words combined with the extension of time.
Although Christ clearly taught that we should discard the pattern of the Gentiles (Mt 6.7), we can not escape the conviction that the longer we pray the more effective we will be. Our heroes are those who for hours pray every day, as if there was merit in the extension itself. Do not misunderstand me! Many of these people possess a degree of delivery that is enviable. But those of us who observe them, easily fall into the temptation of believing that extension is the secret of a deep prayer life.
How did Elijah pray when the time came to invoke Jehovah? His prayer contains only fifty-nine words. However, when it was over, fire fell from the sky and consumed the altar. His prayer was not effective simply because he prayed to the right God, but because he already knew that the project he was in was of the Lord. He did not waste valuable time reporting, nor trying to impress with his spirituality. He simply asked, with simplicity, and God acted. Do you like the model? Elijah is a good teacher when it comes to prayer!