[The prophet Elijah said] 37 Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, Lord, are the real God and that you can change their hearts.” 38 Then the Lord’s fire fell; it consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up the water in the trench!
39 All the people saw this and fell on their faces. “The Lord is the real God! The Lord is the real God!” they exclaimed.
I’ve always liked this story - the priests of Baal and the prophet Elijah are in a competition to prove whose God is the most powerful. Elijah wins, of course. But to me the interesting part is that all the people who had wandered off to worship other gods see this miracle - the sacrificial fire being lit by an act of God even though the wood was thoroughly soaked with water - and suddenly believe the God of Israel is the one true god again.
Janice Joplin sang, “Prove that you love me, and buy the next round.” What does it say about people that we are always looking for God to prove something to us? We present our list of requests to God in our daily prayers, and then start watching to see whether those requests have been fulfilled. We pray for a certain outcome to a situation and then, if the eventual outcome is not the one we asked for, we say “God did not answer my prayers.”
Also, what does it say about us that we think the thing we desire is the best outcome? That we somehow know the right answer to any situation? What if God has something entirely different in mind for us?
Several years ago I was interviewed by a church in the Midwest. I met pretty near every person in that congregation. I liked them, they seemed to like me, and it felt like it would be a good fit. Their interim pastor and the search committee thought it was done and dusted, and that the vote would be a formality. I prayed hard for that call. And the vote was no. I did not understand why. Until, that is, I met the Search Committee of First Christian Church in Selma - a much better fit.
Sometimes the answer is yes. Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes the answer is wait, because there is something better down the road a piece.
Loving God, we know that you always desire what is best for us. We don’t always see what you see. May we stop asking you to prove yourself to us by giving us what we want, and may we learn to accept whatever answer you give us. Amen