Droughts and Floods and Prayer

Australia has been very much in the news recently.

A drought of runs by their cricket team has meant that England were able to comprehensively retain the Ashes, although the Aussies have done better in the one day series, and could wrap up an overall win tomorrow. But will we worry if Andy Murray can win the Australian Open Tennis in the morning?

However, I believe the one day cricket international tomorrow is going to be raising money for those who have been devestated by the floods that have hit Queensland, with at least 32 dead and 30,000 homes affected. It does seem that the world is being affected by one extreme weather condition or another – but is this anything new? As I continue to read the biography of Frederic Barker, the Bishop of Sydney in the mid-1800’s, I came upon this story, which I found interesting and encouraging:

During this tour (of the western side of the Diocese) the Bishop noticed evidences on every side of a most distressing drought, and reports from all parts of the colony showed that it was not local but universally prevalent. This impressed upon him the duty of humiliation before God on the part of the colonists and of supplication for the removal of a visitation, the effects of which were everywhere severely felt  and were most disastrous. Believing that nations as well as individuals are the subject of His providential government, and are chastened for their sins, he held that by such chastisements God calls them to repentance, and it was his conviction that this law applied to New South Wales no less than to other parts of the British Empire.

Taking therefore the course which the circumstances of the case required, and without which a day of general humiliation and prayer could not have been secured, he wrote before the close of the year to his Excellency the Governor, urging that such a day might be set apart by the Executive, on which the colonists might be invited to make their humble supplications to Almighty God for the removal of so great a calamity from the land.

It is gratifying that in accordance with the request, Friday 12th January 1866 was proclaimed as a day on which the public offices would be closed, and an opportunity given to all to observe the day in the manner proposed. The proclamation also ‘expressed the earnest hope that all classes of the community would join with reverence and humility in this solemn appeal to the Divine mercy’.

The day thus set apart by public authority was largely kept throughout the colony as a day of prayer and humiliation. And it may be recorded as a fact, that on that day the drought began to break up, rain fell in many parts of the colony where it was most needed copiously and effectively, reviving the grasses and herbage which seemed to have perished, and producing supplies of water where for months it had been unknown.

I hadn’t read this story before, but it reminded me of the time that I ‘laid down a fleece’ as the church was looking at raising a substantial sum for our Shaping Up building projects, asking God to open the heavens and cause the lakes where I walked each day to flood – within the space of a few days I could no longer do my normal walk as the paths were under feet of water!

Such stories should be an encouragement to us to keep on trusting God, believing that he is interested and involved in the world today, whatever is happening, and praying that He will intervene when we humble ourselves and pray. And perhaps we need to be praying that God will raise up prophetic leaders who will speak not just into the local situation, but to governments and world leaders. And it seems that he doesn’t just answer our prayers, but he answers in abundance.

As we prepare to go to Malawi, we are praying that God will protect us and provide for us as he gives us opportunities to serve him, ministering to others, preaching, praying and sharing with many different people. We wonder what we have to offer and give, feeling unworthy, unprepared and not capable, and so would value your prayers trusting that God will provide and go with us, using us to His glory. I was reminded of this need for prayer today in an e-mail from a nephew of mine who is serving God in a Muslim country. He sent us an article by the Christian author Henri Nouwen, who, reflecting on these words from Luke 6 –

“Now it happened in those days that Jesus went onto the mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came, he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them and called them apostles: Simon, whom he called Peter; and his brother, Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, son of Alphaeus; Simon, called the Zealot; Judas, son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples. There was a great crowd of people from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and be cured of their diseases. And people tormented by unclean spirits were also cured. Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all” (Luke 6:12-19). 

– stated how Jesus needed to spend time, even a whole night, in prayer before he went out to minister to others. I am very aware that we so often get things the wrong way round, turning to prayer once we have begun to minister and things aren’t going well!

As for Scotland – no floods or droughts here. We have had a bit of rain, and have seen lots of water with walks by the sea and by rivers such as the River Findhorn as seen in this photo, but predominantly the sun has shone and we have thoroughly enjoyed the countryside, seeing a large herd of red deer in the hills, seals playing on a sand bank, snow buntings on Cairn Gorm amongst hundreds of skiers, trees like a natural cathedral towering 100 metres into the sky in a beautiful glen. Some of these things you can see on www.flickr.com If you click on ‘people’ and type in MarkandMiriam in the search box, this should lead you to a collection of our photos. I am also hoping that people can make comment in response to my blogs, and will let you know when this is possible.