For the first time since Noah’s Ark landed on Mt. Ararat, it rained in Texas over the weekend. We are in the midst of the worst one-year drought in our state’s history. Temperatures in Dallas hit 100 or higher 39 straight days before scattered rain broke the string on Friday.
July was the hottest month ever recorded in Texas. Farmers and ranchers stand to lose $8 billion, double the losses from droughts in 2006 and 2009. Churches are calling people to pray for rain. At Gov. Perry’s gathering in Houston a week ago, rain was one of the prominent topics of intercession. More and more Christians in the South are gathering to pray for divine intervention as we face a natural disaster of historic proportions.
Here’s my question: What’s the logic of such intercession? I can think of four answers to the question, none of them positive. One: Our prayers tell God something he doesn’t already know, as though he can’t look out his heavenly window and see lakes drying up and crops withering. Two: Our intercession convinces him to do something he would not otherwise have done. Three: Our prayers earn the help which God withholds until we satisfy his requirements. Four: Our intercession demonstrates faith which requires God to act. The first answer challenges God’s omniscience, the second his love, the third his grace, the fourth his omnipotence.
Some people say that prayer doesn’t change God—it changes me. Fine, but why do I need to change for it to rain? What does God do when a farmer prays for rain at the same time a home builder prays for clear skies?
Here’s the answer that makes the most sense to me: Prayer positions us to receive what God wants to give. It doesn’t inform our Father, convince him, earn his favor, or force his hand. He honors the freedom he has given us and will not force us to receive what his grace seeks to give. When we pray, we open our hands to the One who gives us what we ask or whatever is best: “This is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Why would we need to position ourselves through prayer to receive rain? Perhaps God intends to use the drought to show a self-sufficient culture our need of his provision. Perhaps he wants to answer our prayers so as to show a skeptical world that he is real and that prayer is powerful. What are your thoughts? I don’t know all the reasons why it is essential that we pray for God’s favor, but that’s because my finite, fallen little mind cannot comprehend his infinite wisdom and purpose.
I don’t have to understand my laptop to write this essay, or understand the Internet to transmit it to you. Martin Luther King, Jr. explained that “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” What step is your Father waiting for you to take this morning?