Before we get into the subject of this post today, I need to tell you about the 2017 Picture Birmingham calendar! This is our third year that Picture Birmingham and Mission Birmingham have collaborated to create this beautiful product, which contains 13 stunning photos by Birmingham photographer Rachel Callahan, and a short, Scripture-based prayer at the bottom of each page. As always, 100% of the profit from these calendars benefit both The Wellhouse (as does all of your purchases from Picture Birmingham) and Mission Birmingham. These calendars make great Christmas gifts, and you’ll be supporting two ministries at the same time! You can order yours here.
After last night’s disappointing rain – or rather – non-rain event, much of the metro-Birmingham area has not seen any measurable rain for 33 days, according to The Alabama Weather Blog. The next chance of rain doesn’t come until next Saturday. 98% of the state is now in some stage of drought, ranging from moderate to exceptional, which is the highest level of drought. Of the metro-Birmingham area, most of it is in extreme drought, with a small portion in exceptional drought. Waterfalls such as Noccalula and the dam at Tannehill are bone dry, as are most of the smaller streams and creeks that run through our local parks, and are some of my favorite places to visit during a normal Fall.
I confess that I often find myself trusting in the science of meteorology to determine rainfall more than I should. God is the one who ordains seasons and weather patterns, and He is the One who opens and shuts the “windows of heaven” to provide rain or to withhold rain. Yet, this week the Lord has been prompting me to pray for rain. (What can I say, I’m rather slow and dull of hearing at times.) As I started this blog post, it was to pray for the elections, but God interrupted me and impressed upon me that we need to pray for rain.
Of course, anytime we’re talking about drought or praying for rain, the story that comes to most people’s minds is Elijah praying for rain near the end of I Kings 18. I wish we knew what he prayed, but I think the reason we don’t is because we too often want to turn prayer into a formula. I saw a book at the bookstore last night called, “The Right Prayers to Pray for Any Need”. But prayer is not about saying the right words in the right order to get what we want/need. Look at the passage in I Kings:
42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.”
What I noticed in this passage is that Elijah’s prayer position was one of humility and faith. He had faith in what God was telling him to do, and he was faithful to keep doing it until He saw God’s answer. Prayer isn’t about the right words. It’s about the right attitude toward God and about ourselves.
The context of this account is also interesting. Elijah had just finished facing off against the prophets of Baal, and we can read his prayer from that encounter. Verses 36-37 say, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” The purpose was to reveal God as the Sovereign Lord and to turn the hearts of the people back to Him. Then, in James 5:16,17, it talks about Elijah’s faith and prayer for rain, and it’s in the context of confessing our sins, which is the first step of having our hearts turned back to God.
As we face one of the most divisive election seasons in my lifetime, and as our culture continues to embrace those things which the Lord calls abominations, perhaps this drought is a small reminder that all of us who are called by His name need to humble ourselves and to faithfully seek God’s face (to borrow a phrase from a well-known verse, II Chron. 7:14).
Lord God, You are the God of this city and of every nation under Heaven, whether we acknowledge it or not. You establish kings and remove kings (Dan. 2:21). No purpose of Yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). We humbly acknowledge You are a great God and a great King above all gods (Ps. 95:3). We confess that we are idolatrous and prideful, and we need You to turn our hearts back to You.
We pray that You would bring rain to our state, Lord. You are in control of the weather patterns. You are the One who determines when rain comes and when it doesn’t come. Forgive me for taking so long to remember that I should be praying for rain, instead of constantly consulting my favorite meteorologist. We pray that You would open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (from Ps. 145:16) Revive us, O Lord, by Your Spirit. Revive us with streams of Living Water. And when You bring the rains, let it serve as a reminder that You are the source of all that we need and desire. We pray this for Your name’s sake. Amen.