The Prelude to Powerful Praying

The Prelude to Powerful Praying

[Elijah] built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar.
–1 Kings 18:32

In 1 Kings 18, the prophets of Baal were sincere in their beliefs, but they were sincerely wrong. Sincerity is not the key to being right in life. You have to be sure your faith is in the right object. God wanted to clear up the matter about Baal once and for all, so He moved in Elijah’s heart to propose this contest on the top of Mount Carmel.

Under God’s direction, Elijah told Ahab, Jezebel, the prophets of Baal, and the Israelites to assemble on Mount Carmel, where they would have a contest between Baal and Jehovah. At one time, there had been an altar to Jehovah on Mount Carmel, but that altar had been replaced by an altar to Baal. So Baal had the home field advantage in this contest. The rules were simple: Elijah stood on one side, and the prophets of Baal stood on the other. Each would cut up an ox and put it on their altar. Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” The people said, “That’s a good idea.” After three and a half years of drought, the whole area would have been brown and brittle. As the supposed god of weather, Baal could easily send a lightning strike to ignite his sacrifice.

The prophets of Baal “called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’ But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made” (v. 26). Of course nobody answered, because Baal was a figment of the people’s imagination. What is true of Baal is true of all false gods, whether those gods are named Baal, Buddha, money, careers, or sex. Whatever the false god is, it is absolutely powerless to answer our prayers. Verse 29 says, “They raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.”

Then it was Elijah’s turn. First, he “repaired the altar of the Lord” (v. 30). Then he “built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he made a trench around the altar” (v. 32). Why did he build a trench around the altar? Elijah wanted to make it as difficult as possible so that when God’s fire came, there would be no doubt where it came from. And that’s the prelude to powerful praying: an impossible situation. That’s what we see being created here.

God does not despair over difficult situations; He delights in them because difficult situations are an opportunity for God to provide and prove His supernatural power. That is why when we face difficult situations, we don’t run away from them; we face them with prayer. The prelude to powerful praying is an impossible situation.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Practice the Principles of Powerful Praying” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.