According to dictionary.com preposterous means, "completely contrary to nature, reason, or common sense; absurd; senseless; utterly foolish.” In other words, no way, Jose.
What would prayer that is preposterous look like? According to Scripture, if we have enough faith, we can pray for things our common sense tells us is silly. The "utterly foolish" can become the completely possible in the Lord’s hands.
Jesus said, “...I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’" (Matthew 17:20b, ESV) Mountains picking themselves up and moving from one side of the valley to the other is most certainly, “completely contrary to nature.”
One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament involves a big, fat example of unreasonable prayer, answered by a God Who is thankfully not bound by our common sense.
A Prophet Named Elijah
Ever felt outnumbered?
When all my kids were home, I was definitely in the minority. Of course, ideally, we were all on the same team. But every parent knows, in order to see vegetables eaten, beds made, school work completed, "thank you" and “please" spoken with regularity, and siblings NOT killing each other, a parent has to take up a firm position and hold her ground. Every minute of every day.
Parenting is not the only battlefield I face.
I daily fight an enemy who attacks my home, marriage, church, work, and dreams. While I strive to hold my position and not retreat, arrows assail me from all sides.
I know what it feels like to be outnumbered.
So did Elijah.
He was prophet at a time where Baal worship was much more popular than worshipping God. He felt so outnumbered, he felt alone. (I Kings 18:22)
It is hard to feel courageous enough for preposterous prayer when you are lonely.
Let’s be honest- when Christians get together at a conference or concert, and everyone is excited about Jesus, when praises reach the rafters, hands extend, and hallelujahs resound- when that happens it is easy to imagine ourselves brave enough to dare great things for the Lord.
But- when we are surrounded by unbelievers or even outright opposition, and people look at us like the asylum is our ultimate destination, scoffers snort at our “unscientific” faith, we are told to “get with the times,” and Jesus is tolerated as long He stays tame and doesn’t make any demands- when that happens we tend to shrink back, stay quiet, and hope to not get noticed.
Or does this just describe me?
A King Named Ahab
Elijah lived as a hunted man. King Ahab hated this pesky prophet who spoke truth, no matter how uncomfortable or convicting. He hunted for him from one country to another to seize and kill him.
The King was also trying to lead his country through a severe drought, a drought sent by God to punish this nation which had turned its back on Him. Elijah had prophesied not only that this drought would happen, but also that it would not end until Elijah said so. (I Kings 17:1)
The drought may have been judgement on the King’s wickedness, (I Kings 16:30,31) but to Ahab it felt like it was all Elijah’s fault. So, he wanted him found, and he wanted Elijah killed. Yesterday, if possible.
In the midst of this, God tells Elijah, “...'Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.'” (I Kings 18:1b)
We don’t have any record of the conversation following this command. Did Elijah simply say, “Yes Sir. As You wish.” Or did he ask God questions like, “Excuse me- but you don’t mean the same King Ahab that wants to see me dead, do You?” Or simply, “You want me to do WHAT?!?!?!”
All we know is that the very next action in Scripture is, “So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab.” Sounds like complete obedience to me.
Once he meets up with the King, Elijah offers Ahab a smack down. Him against 450 of Ahab’s best prophets of Baal, PLUS (because apparently 450 opposing prophets were not enough to make his point) 400 prophets of Asherah. That is just preposterous. What was Elijah thinking?
He wasn’t thinking it was him again 850 evil prophets. He knew it was God with him against 850 evil prophets. So, the advantage was decidedly in his favor.
Elijah set up this outrageous situation and then upped the ante. He challenged the Baal prophets to a sacrificial duel. They would each set up an altar with a slain ox on top. So far so good, but here was the catch: no fire would be put underneath. To complete the sacrifice they had to obtain the flames from their respective deities. Baal, by the way, was supposedly in charge of all the fire on earth.
Being a good sport and all, Elijah had the prophets of Baal go first. They prepared the sacrifice and then started calling out to their god. No answer and no fire.
"So they leaped about the altar.” (I Kings 18:26) Nothing.
“They cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them.” (I Kings 18:28) Nothing.
After lunch, and for the rest of the day, they raved and they begged. Nothing. Nada. Nyet. Not one, single spark.
This whole time Elijah kept himself busy by offering helpful hints, such as, "Yell louder! After all, he is a god; he may be deep in thought, or perhaps he stepped out for a moment or has taken a trip. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be awakened.” (I Kings 18:27 NET)
Thanks, Elijah. I bet they hadn’t thought of that.
Finally, it was his turn.
First, Elijah built the Lord’s altar with twelve stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he had a trench dug all the way around the altar, arranged the wood on top, and put the ox on the wood.
Then he prayed his preposterous prayer?
Nope. He wasn’t done yet. He instructed that four pitchers be filled with water and poured on the sacrifice. And then four more pitchers. And then four MORE pitchers. The entire altar was soaked and water filled the trench.
Now Elijah? Now are you going to pray?
Oh yes, he is! Just listen to this PRAYER: "And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, '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.’” (I Kings 18:36-37 ESV)
THEN fire fell and consumed the entire sacrifice, the stones, and even the dust, licking up the water before it was done.
Elijah knew the impotence of the opposition and the inability of anyone but the God of Universe to answer a preposterous prayer. The One Who created fire could send it anywhere at any time He chose.
Oh, the extravagance, might, and omnipotence of Yahweh.
And just look at the result: And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, "The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (1Kings 18:39 ESV)
We Pray To The Same God
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.“ (James 1:17 ESV)
We pray to this same eternal, unchanging God.
But even knowing the power of the Lord to Whom I pray, I still hesitate to really go out on a limb and PRAY big. And I certainly don’t make a big scene right in the middle of the crowd, praying crazy prayers on top of a mountain for everyone to hear.
But I want to be a woman of faith. So, I will risk sounding crazy and tell you some of my outrageous prayers. Here goes:
• Revival to sweep the USA which would profoundly change the charge toward the cliff of destruction we seem to be pursuing
• Racial harmony and healing of divisiveness
• Protection of Israel as it is surrounded by enemies
• Protection and healing of adolescent girls in our country who endure sexual pressures and loss of innocence beyond anything I can imagine
• Rescue of women and girls who are trafficked around the globe
I pray preposterous personal prayers too:
• God would send a stream of fire to burn the dirty gunk from my heart and soul, and that He would evaporate the excess of worldly muck by which I am surrounded
• My selfish heart would be transformed to the servant heart of Jesus
• I would overflow with such extravagant love that my family would be overwhelmed by it
• I would be so invaded by Jesus that there would not be a molecule of me where He was not preeminent
• He would take my meager offerings and expand them to proportions beyond reason
What preposterous thing in your life needs Jesus? What feels crazy to pray for? What difficulty appears entrenched to a degree that movement is hopeless? Which odds are so stacked against you, that a solution is impossible?
What "completely contrary to nature, reason, or common sense; absurd; senseless; utterly foolish” prayer should you and I be praying right now?
The same outrageous God, Who sent fire from heaven at the request of His servant, is just waiting for us to take Him seriously enough to ask.
Let’s be women and men who believe in the power of our God.
Share a preposterous prayer request below and lets pray together, and then stand back and watch the Lord move!