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Meditation 585
The failure of prayer: Is God off "on a journey"?

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Whenever the negative results of a properly conducted scientific study on the effects of prayer are released, several Christian theologians can always be found to explain that God does not work that way; God cannot be tested; God does not prove his existence.

But what does the Bible say?

Let's look at 1 Kings 18.

The Israelites (as they seemed to do every time God looked the other way[1]) are once again starting to worship Baal, thanks to the influence of Jezebel, wife of King Ahab. So the prophet Elijah comes to town to sort things out. He challenges the 450 prophets of Baal along with 400 prophets of another god, Asherah, to a contest. "Let's see whose god can set a sacrificial bull on fire! You guys can go first because there are more of you."

So the 850 go through their routines all morning, and of course, nothing happens.

At noon, Elijah mocks them by giving them fake excuses saying:

"Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened."

Note: "on a journey" is a euphemism for what the bear does in the woods (another euphemism.) This makes the mockery even more pungent.

The 850 carry on for a while longer, even cutting themselves in an attempt to get the attention of their gods. And nothing happens.

Elijah then builds an altar, places his chopped up bull upon it, has everything doused with water three times, and then he calls upon his God saying:

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 have done all these things by your command.
Answer me, LORD! Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to their senses.

And of course God answers by setting the sacrifice on fire along with the stone altar and even the water.

Whether a believer reads this tall tale as a metaphor or as literal truth, this looks like a test for God. This looks like God proving himself. And yet, when someone suggests testing God today, we are told God does not work that way. Don't these people know their Bible? Or do they just think their God might be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey; or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened?

Yes. Off on a journey! That's probably why He can't answer prayers today.


  1. Has anyone ever counted how many times the Israelites turned away from Jehovah and started worshipping Baal as recorded in the Old Testament? You don't have enough fingers and toes for this exercise. And yet, if you believe the Old Testament, no other group of people received so much first-hand evidence of their God. If the Israelites kept turning away, why should anyone believe?