The witness of the prophet Elijah echoes through the ages. The holy man’s life was filled with intense prayer and unimaginable signs and wonders. God blessed his servant in order to affirm and extol the sacred mission given to him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church directs our attention to the great prophet and gives us a summary of his life and spiritual experiences. Elijah shines as a friend of God and a master of prayer and the interior life.
It begins with the miracle of the widow and the bread: “After Elijah had learned mercy during his retreat at the Wadi Cherith, he teaches the widow of Zarephath to believe in the Word of God and confirms her faith by his urgent prayer: God brings the widow’s child back to life.”
The prophet offers supplication to God and he responds. But not all prayer will end in a miracle. The prophet shows us the importance of turning to God and trusting in him. Prayer is about surrendering to the divine will. It is accepting the goodness of God, regardless of the observable results.
When they serve a greater good, a miracle will be given. When a greater good can be brought forth without a miracle, then a miracle will not be given. Elijah knew this truth, and his perennial witness teaches that truth to us.
The Catechism also describes the prophet’s time on Mount Carmel: “The sacrifice on Mount Carmel is a decisive test for the faith of the People of God. In response to Elijah’s plea, ‘Answer me, O LORD, answer me,’ the Lord’s fire consumes the holocaust, at the time of the evening oblation. The Eastern liturgies repeat Elijah’s plea in the Eucharistic epiclesis.”
The spiritual battle is between good and evil, the prophet Elijah and the priests of the false god Baal. God will not be mocked and the earnest pleas of his servants will not go unheard, especially when it pertains to his glory and majesty.
Elijah shows the power of God. He humbles his adversaries and shows the splendor and strength of the living God. Prayer can also be a battle in our hearts. God and evil can wage wat within us. The spiritual priests of Baal are always whispering and trying to lead us to a false security in ourselves and to a worship is the gods of our fallen world. Prayer is the means and the light to see the truth, choose the good, and cling to the living God, who loves us and desires us to be with him.
The Catechism concludes its list on the prophet Elijah with these thoughts: “Finally, taking the desert road that leads to the place where the living and true God reveals himself to his people, Elijah, like Moses before him, hides ‘in a cleft of he rock’ until the mysterious presence of God has passed by. But only on the mountain of the Transfiguration will Moses and Elijah behold the unveiled face of him whom they sought; ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [shines] in the face of Christ,” crucified and risen.’”
The desert is always the place of encounter. The cave, away from the distractions of the world, is the place where we can sit quietly and peacefully wait for God. Prayer is a summons to the spiritual desert of our hearts. It is the cave within us that calls out to us and provides us the opportunity to meet God and hear his voice. The desert is intimidating. It can feel like a lonely and isolated place. But God dwells in the desert. He calls us to choose him and to walk with him in the desert.
As believers, we need the witness of Elijah. Such a witness can change us and teach us how to pray from the heart. We must allow Elijah, a great spiritual master, to teach us and guide us in the ways of God. We must rely on Elijah’s instructions and follow his example.
With Elijah, we need to spiritually go to the cave in the desert and wait for God. We must remove the barriers and the barricades of our heart, make our petitions, and then trust and have confidence in him.