First things First

Read 1 Kings 18. All of us want our prayers to work. As Elijah waited for God to send down fire to burn up the sacrifice during his challenge to the prophets of Baal, so we wait for evidence of God’s power to come down upon our lives. We all struggle with unanswered prayer. Elijah must have wondered why King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, still ruled Jezreel when all those prayers were being prayed by the godly few remaining in Israel. And yet, he knew that his country’s altars were in ruins and his people needed to repent.

One reason our prayers aren’t answered is our altars lie in ruins. We’ve neglected our relationship with God and we need to repent of sin in our lives. But once we’re putting repentance to work in our spiritual disciplines, we can find ourselves even more confused if our prayers still don’t produce results.

Although we cannot always know why we don’t see results, in some cases it could be that we have not truly surrendered to God.

The bull that Elijah placed on his altar represented his sin offering to God. The people watching knew exactly what Elijah’s evening offering meant. There was one reason for building an altar—to make a sacrifice. As altars and sacrifices go together, so do repentance and surrender. Repentance is not complete if we do not surrender to God.

And yet we cannot surrender if we have not first repaired our ruined relationship with Him. Sometimes we fervently pray, “Take my life Lord.” But the Bible says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” Psalm 66:18.

Before we do anything else, we need to ask God what He requires for an offering. This is not for us to decide. Cain got into big trouble because he offered God something God had not asked for, and he didn’t offer God something He had asked for. What was Cain’s problem? What is ours?