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Why is afternoon a special time for prayer to G-d?

The Prayer of Elijah the Prophet on Mount Carmel

By N.S., Dec. 20’15

There are many examples that the Hebrew Bible gives of people who prayed to G-d and were answered openly. The story of Eliyahu (Elijah) the Prophet’s late-afternoon prayer on Mt. Carmel is one of the most well-known. Perhaps this is because the prophet’s actions wrought a change in the way that the Jewish people viewed G-d. This change in perspective set the Jews on the right path. They turned their hearts from idol-worship to true service of G-d. By delving into this story, one can better understand exactly what was happening on a deeper level.

Afternoon sky in Israel

Historical background

This story began in the northern kingdom of Israel under the rulership of a wicked king, Achav (Ahab). He had placed idols in every part of the land, he and his priests worshiped the idol Baal. His wicked wife Izevel (Jezebel) hounded the true prophets of G-d. She killed as many as she could find, and attempted to eradicate them entirely. Achav met Eliyahu one day and challenged him using the verse, “If you serve idols … G-d’s anger will burn against you. He will shut the heavens and there will be no more rain.”[1] Eliyahu was indignant at Achav’s impudence. He answered Achav by promising that there would be no more rain or dew until he (Eliyahu) would decree it. G-d sustained this promise, and throughout the Land of Israel a drought and the ensuing famine spread and grew increasingly more severe. Eliyahu still refused to retract his decree, so G-d decided to put an end to this downward spiral.

In the third year of the famine[2], “G-d came to Eliyahu  … saying, ‘Go, appear before Achav, and I will give rain onto the earth.’ ”[3] On that same day, Achav had called for Ovadia (Obadiah), whom he had appointed over his household. He told Ovadia, “ ‘Go in the land to all the wells of water and to all the brooks; maybe we will find grass, and we will save the lives of horses and mules so we won’t lose all our beasts.’ They divided the land between them to pass through it; Achav went one way by himself and Ovadia went the other way by himself.”[4]

Ovadia was a G-d fearing  man, as he proved when Izevel sought to kill all of the Jewish prophets. Ovadia went and hid them in caves, and he brought them food and water every day.  As Ovadia was walking the land as Achav had told him to, he met Eliyahu. Ovadia fell on his face in respect to the prophet.  Eliyahu then instructed Ovadia to tell Achav that he requests for the king to come and speak with him. Ovadia reluctantly obeyed.[5]

Achav went toward Eliyahu and, upon meeting him, he asked, “Is this you, the one who brings trouble on Israel?”[6] He was referring to the fact that Eliyahu had decreed that no rain would fall, resulting in a drought and famine.[7] However, Eliyahu answered Achav by telling him that it was not he who had brought this trouble and famine. Rather, Achav and his family were the ones who had caused the disaster, through their idol worship and forsaking G-d.[8] Eliyahu then advised Achav what to do if he wanted it to rain.[9] He would have to “send and gather … all [the men of] Israel to Mt. Carmel, and the prophets of Baal, four hundred and fifty.” Achav went ahead and carried out these instructions.[10]

Once on Mt. Carmel, Eliyahu began to address the Jewish nation before him.[11] He asked them: how long would they continue vacillating between belief in HaShem [a substitute for the Tetragrammaton Name of G-d] and belief in Baal?[12]  He then challenged them: “If HaShem is the G-d, then follow Him! And if the Baal, go after it!”[13] The people before him remained silent, for they were still undecided.[14] Then Eliyahu proposed a test. He would be on the side of G-d, and on the other side there would be 450 prophets of Baal.

The conditions for the test

There would be two bulls, one of which the prophets of Baal would choose. They would slaughter and place their animal on a wooden alter they would build. Eliyahu would do the same with the other bull. Then the prophets of Baal would cry out to their god asking for a fire to descend upon their alter. Afterwards, Eliyahu would ask the same of G-d. The side that could make a fire descend and burn the sacrificial bull would prove to the people which deity was true.[15] The people were eager to see the outcome of the test and to see an end of the drought. The prophets of Baal were not enthusiastic, knowing that they had no power to bring fire down from the heavens. But they were forced to comply.[16]

Eliyahu then turned to the prophets of Baal and told them, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, as you are the majority. Call in the name of your god, and don’t place any fire on the alter.” The next verse tells us that they took the bull that Eliyahu gave them, they prepared it. They called out in the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice and no answer.[17]

The Midrash (Yalkut Shemoni) gives a story behind these proceedings. It explains that Eliyahu told the prophets of Baal to choose one of two twin bulls by lottery. The bull that they chose, however, refused to budge from its place even after all the 450 prophets had simultaneously attempted to drag it to their alter. So Eliyahu told the bull to go with them. In front of the Jewish people, the bull answered, “My brother and I are from the same womb, the same pasture, and the same manger. But now he is going to serve G-d and sanctify Him, and I have to go to the Baal and anger my Creator?!”

Eliyahu responded that it was to be the one that would prove the prophets of Baal to be false. It would be sanctifying G-d’s Name just as much as the other bull that would be sacrificed to G-d. The chosen bull, though, was not convinced. It then told Eliyahu that it promised not to move from its spot unless it was physically delivered by him into their hands. Immediately, the verse goes on to say that “they took the bull that Eliyahu gave them.”

The idolaters’ plan is foiled by G-d, and He answers Eliyahu’s prayer

The prophets of Baal prepared the bull and offered it, crying out to their god. But there was no answer, so they began to dance on the alter “he had made.” The Midrash speaks about the fact that this phrase is singular. It says that a person by the name of Cheil had constructed their alter to be hollow and wide. He crept inside with materials to start a fire and awaited the cries of the prophets as a signal to light the fire. However, G-d arranged that a snake crawled under the alter and bite him fatally. Therefore, the prophets began to dance on the alter, thinking that perhaps Cheil had fallen asleep!

Toward noontime, Eliyahu began to poke fun at them. He spoke up at noontime specifically because[18] at that time, the sun is at its highest point. If the Sun-god was to send down a fire, it would be at noontime. But noontime passed and Eliyahu said, “Call out louder, for he is a god. Perhaps he is talking, or pursuing enemies, or maybe on a journey. Perhaps he is sleeping and needs to be woken up.”[19] He was telling them that their efforts were becoming ridiculous, for “Maybe he is musing with his advisors, or conquering nations, or in the bathroom, or even sleeping.”[20] So the prophets of Baal screamed, yelled, and gashed themselves until they were all gushing blood. But the time for the Jews’ traditional evening sacrifice had come, and there was still no answer.[21]

Now it was Eliyahu’s turn,[22] and he told the people to gather closer. He rebuilt the alter that King Shaul had built, which was torn down by the later wicked kings of Israel.[23] Eliyahu took twelve stones, corresponding to the twelve tribes, of whom G-d had said, “Israel shall be your name.” He placed them as an alter in G-d’s Name. Then he made a trench around the alter, so large that its width could contain two se’ah. That is one hundred cubits by fifty cubits, like the courtyard of the Tabernacle that was erected by Moses.[24] Then he arranged the wood, cut up the bull, and placed the bull on the wood. Afterward, he called for jugs of water and filled up the trench around the alter.

At the time that the Temple’s afternoon sacrifice (called “Mincha”) was traditionally offered, near sundown, Eliyahu began to pray. In response, fire from G-d descended and consumed the offering, the wood and the stones. It licked up the water that was in the trench to the point that no moisture remained.[29] The Jewish people who were assembled on the mountain saw this, and they fell on their faces to prostrate themselves before G-d. Then they cried out, “HaShem – He is the G-d! HaShem – He is the G-d!”[30] This statement showed they were then convinced that the Baal idol had no power at all. Before, they had mistakenly believed in Hashem as a supreme “G-d of gods”, with Baal as an intermediary.[31]

After this episode on Mt. Carmel, Eliyahu had the prophets of Baal taken down to the Kishon brook. There, he killed them there for their capital sin. Then Eliyahu told King Achav to go home because it was going to storm. Eliyahu went up onto a mountain and again prayed before G-d to send rain, and heavy rain then came down.[33]

Lessons we can learn from this about prayer

The Talmud derives a lesson from the fact that Eliyahu’s  prayer was answered during the time of Mincha: Jews should always be careful about their Mincha [afternoon] prayer service. In another place, the sage Kli Yakar[26] teaches that the Mincha prayer is special for it is answered immediately.

The Frierdiker Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, comments[27] on the Talmud’s statement quoted above. He explains why it is specifically prayer at the time of Mincha that has an advantage over prayer at other times. He prefaces his answer by explaining that the Jews’ problem during Eliyahu’s time was that they regarded their physical prosperity as more important than their connection with G-d. Therefore, they were willing to forgo a direct relationship with G-d. Instead, they turned to other modes of worship (namely, serving celestial beings or supposed gods over specific aspects of world), thinking that would give them greater physical blessings.

This phenomenon arises because the unholy forces in creation absorb their energy from G-d’s holy Light that transcends the created spiritual and physical worlds. The existence of unholy forces is not provided to them by G-d “face-to-face”. It is provided from “behind His back,” so to speak. The Jews did not realize that one’s material assets are only ephemeral, whereas a connection to G-d Himself is eternal. It will ultimately openly benefit a person and the world around him in a much greater way. (This will happen even though one’s affluence may temporarily be less because he following the righteous path).

The Jews’ Mincha prayer is said during the afternoon, and is therefore an expression of desiring direct relationship with G-d. This is because a person may want to connect with G-d only when it is convenient for him. Usually, that is in the morning or evening. In the afternoon, a person is involved in physical matters / business and is trying to accumulate physical assets for himself. The last thing on his mind at that time may be to desire a connection with G-d. For this reason, the afternoon is a special time for prayer. It demonstrates that the person who is praying to G-d then is temporarily putting aside his physical pursuits. He is submitting himself to G-d because he understands that ultimately, it is the greatest thing he can do. So Eliyahu took this special opportunity to make a close connection with G-d in prayer. He asked that G-d answer him at this time, which indeed openly came to pass.

The meaning of Eliyahu’s prayer

Eliyahu’s prayer went as follows[28]: “G-d, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are G-d and that I am Your servant, and at Your word I have done all these things. Answer me, O L-rd, answer me, and these people should know that you HaShem are G-d, and You have turned their hearts backwards.”

The words “Answer me, O L-rd, answer me” are examined by many different Torah sources. The Midrash explains that the reason for these words was that Eliyahu was bringing his sacrifice at a time in history during which it was already forbidden to bring any offering outside of the Bais HaMikdash [the Holy Temple, in Jerusalem]. Therefore, Eliyahu added these words, saying, “answer me in my merit, and answer me in the merit of my prophet-student, Ovadia.” He said, “at Your word I have done all these things,” i.e. bringing a sacrifice outside of the Bais HaMikdash.

The Talmud also delves into this phrase. It explains that Eliyahu was saying, “‘Master of the world, answer me that fire should descend from the heavens and consume everything that is on the altar. And answer me that You will correct their views, that they won’t say that what occurred was done by magic.” Then the Talmud connects this to the fact that Eliyahu continued and said, “You have turned their hearts backwards.” This means that G-d needed to change their hearts so they wouldn’t say that the fire came down by magic.

The meaning of the Jews’ response to the miracle

This statement, “HaShem – He is the G-d! HaShem – He is the G-d!”29 expresses the complete repentance of the Jewish people at that time, when they returned wholeheartedly toward G-d. The four-letter Tetragrammaton Name of G-d [Y-H-V-H, which should never be pronounced], that we usually translate as “L-rd,” represents His attribute of unlimited mercy, which is above the natural order, and through which His constant giving of life-energy keeps the created spiritual and physical realms in existence. This Divine Name has within it the three Hebrew words that mean, “He was,” “He is,” and “He will be,” all simultaneously. This means that G-d it eternal and also transcends time. In contrast, the Divine Name “E-lokim,” which we usually translate as “G-d,” connotes His hiddenness from the creation. It refers to G-dly energy enclothed within the natural order in a way that is not visible to physical eyes.

There are two ways to recognize the unity of G-d in the world. The first is to recognize that there are many diverse things in our world, but G-d is constantly giving His force of creation to every one of them. The second way is to recognize the G-dliness in everything and thereby understand that everything is really one with G-d. From the episode with Eliyahu on Mt. Carmel, these two ways of perceiving G-dliness became clear to the Jewish people. This was expressed in their declaration, “HaShem – He is the G-d! HaShem – He is the G-d!” They saw that there was a natural world which G-d is actively running. They also saw that the transcendent G-dly power is the same power that creates the world with all its limitations.[32]

The Jewish people at Mt. Carmel did complete repentance because they realized that G-d is everywhere, and that no matter how low they may have fallen spiritually because of their idolatry, G-d desired to establish His connection with each of them. Such is the nature of G-d’s attribute of mercy, that it is merciful without boundaries. This was indeed what Eliyahu was praying for; he wanted them to understand that Baal, and every other idol for all time, was nothing, and that they could always return to G-d because G-d wants a One-on-one relationship every person.

The story of Eliyahu the Prophet on Mt. Carmel is significant to every generation and every person’s life. It speaks about the Jews’ underlying connection to G-d, and shows every person that he may always repent – even from a capital sin like idolatry – to make and strengthen his relationship with G-d. The story teaches that serving G-d through one’s commandments in His Torah is the most correct and meaningful path that one can  choose for himself. When our lives became filled with G-d, and we desire G-d’s Truth and His Presence in our lives, we bring the ourselves and the world to greater completion within G-d’s plan, so that very soon the only thing left to accomplish will be G-d’s sending Eliyahu to announce to the world the immediate coming of the true Messiah, may it happen very speedily in our days!

Information on sources:

Source for straightforward classical Rabbinical explanations on I Kings:
Hochberg, Rabbi Reuven, trans. “I Kings, Chapter 18.” The Book of Kings I. Ed. Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg. New York: Judaica, 1988. 183-96. Print.


Source texts

I Kings Chapter 18: 1-46

(1) And it was [after] many days that the word of G-d came to Elijah in the third year saying, ‘Go, appear to Ahab and I will give rain upon the surface of the earth. (2) And Elijah went to appear to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in the land. (3) Ahab had called to Obadiah, who was over the household, and Obadiah feared of the L-rd greatly. (4) And it was when Jezebel cut off of the prophets of the L-rd, that Obadiah took one hundred prophets and hid them fifty men in a cave, and he nourished them with bread and water. (5) And Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go in the land to all the wells of water and to all the brooks, maybe we will find grass, and we will save the lives of horse[s] and mule[s] and we will not lose all our beasts. (6) They divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went on one way by himself and Obadiah went on one way by himself. (7) Now Obadiah was on the road and behold Elijah was in front of him. He recognized him and fell on his face, and he said, ‘Is this you, my master, Elijah?’ (8) And he said to him, ‘This is I. Go and tell your master: Here is Elijah.’ (9) And he said, ‘What have I sinned that you have delivered your servant into the hands of Ahab to kill me? (10) As the L-rd your G-d lives, if there is a nation or a kingdom where my master has not sent to search for you, and they have said he is not there, and he adjured the kingdom and nation that they did not find you. (11) And now you say: Go tell your master, Here is Elijah. (12) And it will be that I will go from here, and a wind from the L-rd will carry you to [a place] I know not where, and I will come to tell Ahab, and he will not find you and he will kill me; yet your servant fears the L-rd from my youth. (13) My master was surely told what I did when Jezebel [thought she had] killed all the prophets of the L-rd. I hid one hundred men of the prophets of the L-rd by fifty men in a cave, and provided them with bread and water. (14) And now you say: Go tell your master, here is Elijah; and he will kill me.’ (15) And Elijah said, ‘As the L-rd of Hosts before whom I have stood, lives, I will appear to him today.’ (16) And Obadiah went towards Ahab, and he told him, and Ahab went towards Elijah. (17) And it was when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, ‘Is this you, the one who brings trouble upon Israel?’ (18) And he answered: ‘I have not troubled Israel; but you, and you father’s house, for you have forsaken the commandments of the L-rd, and you have followed the Baal-idols. (19) Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the Asherah four hundred, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’ (20) And Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto Mount Carmel. (21) And Elijah came near unto all the people, and said: ‘How long will you be hopping between two opinions? If the L-rd is G-d, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ And the people answered him not a word. (22) Then said Elijah unto the people: ‘I, even I only, am left a prophet of the L-rd; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. (23) Let them therefore give us two bullocks, and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under; and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on the wood, and put no fire under. (24) And you will call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the L-rd; and the G-d that answers by fire, let him be G-d.’ And all the people answered and said: ‘It is well spoken.’ (25) And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal: ‘Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first, for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.’ (26) And they took the bullock which was given to them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning, even until noon, saying: ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, nor any answer. And they danced on the altar which they had made. (27) And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said: ‘Cry aloud; for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping, and must be woken.’ (28) And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with swords and lances, till the blood gushed out upon them. (29) And it was so, when midday was past, that they prophesied [falsely] until the time of the offering of the evening [i.e. late afternoon] offering; but there was neither voice, nor any answer, nor any that was listening. (30) And Elijah said unto all the people: ‘Come near unto me,’ and all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the L-rd that was thrown down. (31) And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the L-rd came, saying: ‘Israel shall be your name.’ (32) And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the L-rd, and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. (33) And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood. (34) And he said: ‘Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt-offering, and on the wood.’ And he said: ‘Do it a second time,’ and they did it a second time. And he said: ‘Do it a third time,’ and they did it a third time. (35) And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. (36) And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said: ‘O L-rd, the G-d of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that You are G-d in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. (37) Answer me, O L-rd, answer me, that this people may know that You, L-rd, are G-d, for You turned their hearts backward.’ (38) Then the fire of the L-rd fell, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. (39) And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they exclaimed: ‘The L-rd – He is the G-d! The L-rd – He is the G-d!’ (40) And Elijah said unto them: ‘Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.’ And they took them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slew them there. (41) And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go up, eat and drink, for now you will hear the rumbling sound of the rain. (42) And Ahab went up to eat and drink. Elijah went up to the top of Mt. Carmel and crouched on the ground, and he put his head between his knees. (43) And he said to his servant, ‘Please go up and look toward the sea.’ And he went up and looked, and he said, ‘There is nothing.’ And he said, ‘Go again,’ seven times. (44) And it was on the seventh time, that he said, ‘There is a cloud as small as a man’s palm, rising from the sea.’ And he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Hitch up [the horses to the chariot] and descend, lest the rain stop you.’ (45) Meanwhile, the heavens grew dark with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain; and Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. (46) And a spirit of strength from the L-rd was with Elijah, and he girded his loins and ran before Ahab until coming to Jezreel.


Deuteronomy 11:16-17
(17) Beware, lest your heart be misled, and you turn away and worship strange gods and prostrate yourselves before them. (18) And the wrath of the L-rd will be kindled against you, and He will close off the heavens, and there will be no rain, and the ground will not give its produce, and you will perish quickly from upon the good land that the L-rd gives you.
Rashi on Verses 18: 18-40
(21) Two opinions: Two thoughts, for you do not know to decide who is G-d. But if Baal: Is G-d, then go after him. And the people answered him not a word: Because they did not know to distinguish between one and the other.
(27) Either he is musing, or he has gone aside: Perhaps he is having a conference with his advisors now, or he is overtaking and pursuing his enemies in war. Or he is on a journey: To the bathroom.
(30) And he repaired the altar of the L-rd that was thrown down: He built an altar and reminded Israel that the altar of the L-rd should enter their thoughts and should be spoken of with fluency, for it was torn down and destroyed and its name and its mention had ceased from the mouth of all the ten tribes. Thus I heard its simple interpretation. And its Midrashic interpretation I have heard, that [King] Saul built an altar on Mt. Carmel. That is what [Scripture means when] it states: (I Sam. 15:12) “Saul has come to Carmel, and behold, he is setting up a place,” and there (Gen. 33:20) it says: “And he set up an altar there.” And the kings of Israel tore down all the altars and high places in their land that were made in the name of Heaven, and Elijah built this altar of Saul that was torn down.
(39) The L-rd – He is the G-d: And the Baal is not G-d.
Radak on Verses 18: 1-40
(1) …In the third year: Since the rain had been withheld.
(21) Hopping: As a lame person who is lame in both legs; unlike a person who is lame only in one leg and can hop solely on the other, the one who is lame in both legs doesn’t know which one to hop on. So were the Jews vacillating between two ideas or ideologies …
(38) And it licked up: It dried it up until there was no moisture left in the trench at all.
Abarbanel on Verses 18: 1-40
(17) Is this you, the one who brings trouble upon Israel?: …This was an expression of entering a conversation. Ahab called Elijah “the one who brings trouble on Israel,” because Elijah had sworn that no rain would fall, thereby causing the drought and famine.
(18) I have not troubled Israel; but you, and you father’s house, for you have forsaken the commandments of the L-rd, and you have followed the Baal-idols: Elijah was telling Achav, “My oath was not the initial cause of Israel’s trouble. It is your forsaking the commandments of the L-rd and your adoption of Baal worship that caused me to swear as I did.”
(23) “It is well spoken”: The people were eager to witness the test, to have proven to them the identity of the true G-d, and to end the drought. The prophets of Baal, however, were not so eager, knowing full well the futility of their idols. They were, though, forced to go through with the experiment.
(27) And it came to pass at noon: Noon is the sun’s highest point. If a Sun-god could send fire, this was the time he could do it. Therefore, at noon, Elijah scoffed at them.
Kli Yakar on Genesis Chapter 24, Verse 60
(Gen. 24:63) And Isaac went forth to pray in the field towards evening [and he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, camels were approaching.]: Our Rabbis learn from here that Isaac instituted the [afternoon] prayer [corresponding to the “Mincha” prayer service in the Jewish liturgy] that is said before evening and near sunset. This also corresponds to what our Rabbis said [in the Talmud], that a person should always be careful with the prayer of Mincha because Elijah was only answered at [the time of day for] the prayer of Mincha. Even though Abraham and Jacob instituted the prayers of morning and evening [respectively], we never see that they were answered fully or immediately. Isaac, on the other hand, prayed – presumably it was for a wife, as every pious person does – at the time of Mincha, and even before he was finished, Eliezer was on his way to find a wife for him… Immediately as he finished praying, “he raised his eyes and, behold, camels were coming,” for while he was praying he kept his eyes down, but when he finished he looked up and saw the camels that bore his [future] wife [Rebecca] toward him.From here we learn that a person is answered especially when praying during [the time for] the Mincha prayer service…
Yalkut Shemoni Chapters 210-217
(25) Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first: Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose two twin cows from the same mother, that grew up on the same manger, and place a lottery on them that one should be for HaShem and one for Baal. Elijah’s cow was chosen and it followed after him. However, the cow chosen for the Baal wouldn’t budge even when 450 prophets of Baal had gathered [and pulled it], until Elijah opened his mouth and said, “Go with them!” The cow answered Elijah before all the people [and said], “My friend and I came out from the same womb, grew up in the same pasture [and] in the same manger, but here he is going to sanctify the Holy One Blessed be He and His Name, while I have to go to Baal and anger my Creator?!” Elijah told the cow, “Go with them so that they should not find a plot [to get out of this test], and just as the Holy One Blessed be His Name will be sanctified through the [cow] with me, so will He be blessed through your hand.”

The cow responded, “This is how you advise me?! I promise that I will not move from here until you [Elijah] put me in their hands.”

Immediately [as the scriptures continue:], “And they took the bullock which was given to them.” (v. 26) Who “gave” it? Elijah. Before, the verse said, “Choose… for yourself,” (v. 25) and here it says, “Which was given to them.” (v. 26)

(26) And they danced on the alter that they (lit. he) had made: Why does the verse use the singular form “he had made” as opposed to the plural form of “they had made”? This is to teach that a person by the name of Cheil had constructed their alter to be hollow and wide and that he was placed inside of it. They (the prophets of Baal) told him, “When you hear the cries [of the prophets], then you should immediately light the fire that you have in your hand and [the alter] will burn from underneath.” Immediately, the Holy One Blessed be He invited a snake [to crawl under the alter] and it bite him [Cheil] and he died.
(36) And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening offering, that Elijah came near: Elijah was bringing a sacrifice outside of the Holy Temple at a time when it was forbidden to do so.R. Simlai said, “The Holy One, Blessed be He, had told him do to so, as it says ‘I have done all these things at Your word.’ (v. 36) Also Elijah added the prayer ‘Answer me, O L-rd, answer me,’ (v. 37) asking G-d to answer him in his own merit and to answer him in the merit of his [prophet] student (Obadiah).
Talmud Tractate Brachot 9b
Brachot 9b:(37) Answer me, O L-rd, answer me: Rabbi Abbahu said, “Why did Elijah say ‘answer me’ two times? To teach that Elijah said before the Holy One Blessed be He, ‘Master of the World, answer me that fire should descend from the heavens and consume everything that is on the alter, and answer me that You will distract their views that they will not say that what occurred was an act of magic,’ as it says, ‘You [G-d] turned their hearts backwards’ (v. 37).”
Talmud Tractate Brachot 6b
Brachot 6b: Said Rabbi Helbo, said Rav Huna: “People should forever be careful with the afternoon prayer of Mincha, as Elijah was not answered [by G-d] except during the [time for the] Mincha prayer, as it says, ‘And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said… ‘Answer me, O L-rd, answer me’ – [i.e.,] ‘answer me’ that a fire should descend from heaven, and ‘answer me’ that they [the Jews who were assembled on Mt. Carmel] shouldn’t say that what occurred was an act of magic.”

[1] Deuteronomy 11:16-17

[2] Radak’s explanation of I Kings 18:1

[3] I Kings 18:1

[4] I Kings 18:5-6

[5] I Kings 18:7-16

[6] I Kings 18:17

[7] Abrabanel’s explanation of I Kings 18:17

[8] I Kings 18:18

[9] Abrabanel’s explanation of I Kings 18:18

[10] I Kings 18:19-20

[11] I Kings 18:21-24

[12] Radak’s explanation of I Kings 18:21

[13] Rashi’s explanation of I Kings 18:21

[14] See footnote 12

[15] I Kings 18:23

[16] Abrabanel’s explanation of I Kings 18:22-24

[17] I Kings 18:25-26

[18] Abrabanel’s explanation of I Kings 18:27

[19] I Kings 18:27

[20] Rashi’s explanation of I Kings 18:27

[21] I Kings 18:28-29

[22] I Kings 18:30-35

[23] Rashi’s explanation of I Kings 18:30

[24] Ibid. 18:32

[25] I Kings 18:36

[26] Kli Yakar’s explanation of Genesis 24:60

[27] Sefer HaMaamarim, Kuntreisim 1, pg. 406

[28] I Kings 18:36-37

[29] Radak’s explanation of I Kings 18:38

[30] I Kings 18:38-39

[31] Rashi’s explanation of I Kings 18:39

[32] Likkutei Torah, Chassidic discourse titled “Return, Israel”

[33] I Kings 18:40-46