Saturday, June 18, 2011

Do We Honor God's Interests When We Pray for Rain?

I live in a dry area of the country and currently we are suffering from some extreme drought. Everyone is anxious and concerned as our municipalities are forced to place watering restrictions to preserve some of the water supply.

At this time (as in previous droughts), the only thing that appears to worry my neighbors is watering our yards. Yes, there is concern for farmers and their crops, but mostly I'd say we just don't want our lawns to die. But no one is missing their morning shower or dehydrating from lack of a drink.

Is this a concern in other drought-ridden countries? Or are there bigger fish to fry?

Two years ago we were going through the same thing. A local "celebrity" of sorts organized a prayer meeting in the center of town to pray for rain. Many people rallied for this event. And on the surface it appeared like a God-honoring thing for Christians to do.

Ironically (and comically), we had a 10 minute shower minutes before the prayer meeting. This was seen as a result of the prayer effort and the local paper highlighted this success on the front page of the next day's issue.  The community- and especially the Christians- lauded the power of prayer to bring rain.

This happened in June. No more rain came until October. Hmmmm.

At the time, I was leading a morning class at the church I served. I raised a few questions:
  • If the gathering of people to the city square to pray for rain succeeded (even if for only 10 minutes), why weren't there consistant prayer vigils following this? It seemed that the Christians lauded their unified effort but then once "success" was achieved, they didn't take what had happened seriously enough to be further inconvenienced by more gatherings. Really? If prayer on the square really did make it rain, then why weren't people there praying every day until the drought ended?
  • Since at the same time, other areas of the country were being drenched with rain, were our local prayer warriors muddying the waters (pardon the pun) by requesting God to give us rain while others elsewhere were probably asking for rain to end? It seems to me that weather patterns happen by God's creative design and we live in relationship with both nature and neighbors no matter what the weather brings. I'm guessing that if our concerns are to match those of God, they need to transcend weather forcasts.
  • What is really expected of the follower of Jesus when natural crises occur- in this case severe drought? A student in my class challenged my views by saying that she knew of a family who may lose their farm if it didn't rain soon. I challenged the class to consider that perhaps by praying for rain to save this family and their property, we are neglecting what would be a more biblical imperative which would be to care for them should they lose their farm. By praying for rain, are we not asking God to relieve us of what might be ours to do? The true response to a drought may not be to pray for rain, but to care for those who may be legitimately victimized by it- and I'm not talking about those of us whose lawns are less-than-lush.
  • If God was listening to a prayer meeting at the city square on behalf of unlimited watering and greener grass; and if he showed his favor by generating a 10 minute cloudburst; perhaps some prayer time should've been spent praying for something that really matters in God's design. Perhaps the power of a praying community should be directed toward poverty, injustice or human trafficking. If we've got God's ear, let's seize it for things that really matter worldwide!  When I asked the class if the similare (or any) excitement would be generated if the same "celebrity" called for a prayer meeting at the square for the purposes of eliminating human trafficking in the world, they had to admit that since the issues of slave trading and human trafficking wasn't front page material in our community, that people woudn't be as interested. AHEM! Isn't that the point??!!! Why aren't God's people more interested in the things that break God's heart than the things that narcissistic Americans think are important? Just a little thought (and prayer) would expose the motives of our self-interested prayer meetings.
I offer these thoughts today because once again, two years later, our local community is experiencing severe drought. Some concerned local believers have invited people on Facebook to a prayer meeting to ask God for rain.  I wonder if some folks in the flooded midwest would care to join us.

Sadly, in the last two years no one (Christian or otherwise) has invited others for a prayer meeting at the town square to seek God's passion for the matters that, according to the Bible, affect it the most.

I expect that "believers" will turn out for tonight's prayer meeting. Maybe I should post an invitation for a prayer meeting next week for less "glamourous" but more biblical issues like world hunger, pandemic disease and international peace. I wonder if the same "believers" would come.

I wonder if anyone would come.

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