Praying for rain and understandingBy Jane Yoder-Short
Here in the parched Midwest, praying for rain became a familiar summer tune. Humans have long prayed for rain, but with our modern knowledge of meteorology, praying for rain can become a wrestling match. We struggle knowing it takes updrafts, low pressure zones and certain ocean currents for rain to happen in particular places. To our scientific minds, praying for rain can sound somewhat foolish.
Praying for rain can also turn into a wrestling match with guilt. As we spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we can’t avoid wondering whether we are responsible for messing up our weather. Are we partially to blame for the parched earth? Are we like a smoker praying we don’t get lung cancer instead of praying for courage to change our habit?
Or perhaps others of us smugly console ourselves by thinking we aren’t polluting as recklessly as our neighbors.
We are familiar with another story where prayer gets tangled with a wrestling match.
Jacob, who is not innocent or deserving, prays for deliverance from Esau, his estranged brother. He had tricked his blind father and stolen his brother’s birthright. The night before their inevitable meeting, Jacob wrestles with an unnamed assailant and demands a blessing. When morning comes he is left with a wounded hip, but Jacob the trickster is also given a new name. Jacob entered the struggle and came out with a different perspective. The estranged brothers are reunited and unexpectedly reconcile.
As we pray for deliverance from drought, are we looking for unexpected results? Are we willing to wrestle with the painful truth of our culpability?
We, like Jacob, can be tricksters. We have tricked our global neighbors with a shallow pretense of concern while we continue to hungrily consume resources and spew out damaging carbon dioxide. We have pretended to be concerned about freedom and democracy when our real interest was oil. We have stolen the birthright and resources of others. We have transformed creation into supplies needed to achieve our dreams.
Faintly we hear the call to become new people — people who pray for more than rain, people who pray for unexpected shalom. Shalom is not something we scientifically analyze but something we experience. Shalom is the God gift of well-being for all of creation.
Praying for shalom can be more costly than praying for rain. It asks us to be reunited with our estranged brothers and sisters. It asks those of us who drive SUVs to understand those who invest in smart cars. It asks those of us who depend on corporate farms to love those who worry about plant diversity. It asks those of us who dream of creation care to understand those who are thrifty and buy Styrofoam cups. We wrestle with our own limits and biases and find love holds the way forward.
Even in our sin-wracked world, God is at work reconciling us to each other and to creation. God desires shalom to rain down.
Praying is dangerous. It can change who we are. Cautiously, courageously we pray for the coming of God’s new kingdom where shalom reigns, where enemies are reconciled, and where the parched earth finds healing. We wrestle to become new people who envision shalom raining down. We pray, we wrestle and live expecting healing rain.
Jane Yoder-Short lives in Kalona, Iowa, and attends West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa.
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