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Sunday, 30 June 2013

Should We Pray For Sunshine?

As a self-employed domestic window cleaner, one of the biggest problems that plagues the business is wet weather. Over the years, I have learnt to overcome much of this problem, although there were, and will always be, days lost due to heavy or blustering rain. During the Summer, lost time is often made up by working later into the evenings. But during Winter, with limited daylight hours, lost time cannot be compensated for, resulting in loss of income. Therefore, keeping constant track of the daily forecast had always been essential for planning and running the business. And not to mention "fair weather clients" - customers who believe that cleaning their windows is not worth the fee I ask for, due to threats of rain, even if it's dry at the time I knock on their doors. Believe me, they can be a pain in the neck.

At our fellowship, Ascot Life Church, we have sung on occasions a song which contain the lyrics:
Let it rain, let it rain, let the rain fall on us...
And you know what? Following such Sundays when this song was included in the worship agenda, I have indeed faced a wet working week, more than once! But this song was about spiritual rain, the rain of the Holy Spirit into our lives so others can see the power of Christ within us. And that is where, I believe, the songwriter had got his priorities wrong. The song pleads, Rain on us. But I believe the correct lyrics should have been Rain on them, that is, the lost. The unsaved can only be redeemed through faith by means of the ministry carried out by the Holy Spirit taking place prior to conversion.
Lately, the song had become something of a standing joke between Dave, one of our Elders, and myself. Last weekend, we had a fete at a nearby school field, and the day began with a light shower. Fortunately the rain did not persist, and although a north-westerly breeze made us keep our woollies on, the day was a success, with a good turnout. And it was when I arrived at the school field during the shower when Dave asked me to "Rise to the challenge" and discuss whether it is right for Christians to pray for sunshine, or dry weather.
Not from Original Creation
Our present global climate was not part of original creation. In Genesis chapter one, we read that the waters being divided, with the upper waters forming a vapour canopy above the earth, while the waters below formed the oceans. Alongside this the narrator adds that, "The Lord did not cause it to rain upon the earth..."(2:5.) Therefore, the global climate must have been vastly different during antediluvian days than at present. It has been suggested that the vapour canopy caused the cloudless sky to appear red during the day, allowing the colours of all creation to appear more bright and intense. This seems to have been implicated by the fruit of the tree looking "pleasant to the eyes" (3:6) as well as providing universal warmth required for some species of fauna to grow to gigantic size, the well known Dinosaurs which must have roamed the planet during the days between Adam and Noah, if the historicity of the Bible is to be believed.
The Noachian Deluge was caused, as most scholars believe, by the collapse of the vapour canopy, together with the release of subterranean waters, probably under growing pressure by underlying magma, which too, breached the earth's crust as intense volcanic eruptions. The resulting ash cloud rising into the stratosphere causing the vapour to condense and fall as torrential rain, most likely were the mechanisms required to cause a universal deluge. After the Flood, and the time for Noah, his family and all the animals to leave the ark, Noah may have been aghast with the blue sky interspersed with clouds, seen for the first time ever. We can easily understand the fear Noah must have felt at the sight of rain, in case another Flood was on the way. The Covenant of the rainbow is strongly indicative of the vast change in climate, along with being caught in a sudden downpour, and the settling down of the new meteorological system which had not been present before the flood.

The British are renowned for talking about our unpredictable weather. Often, comparisons are made between the UK climate and that of the Mediterranean, the most popular destination for British holidaymakers (vacationers) where Summers are hot and dry and Winters short and temperate. When in the last few years it had been cooler, warmer, wetter or dryer in the UK than normal, there were fears of a threat of a looming new Ice Age, Global Warming, or nowadays, Climate Change. But the latest meteorological graphs seem to indicate that the variance experienced in the weather pattern in the last few years had not strayed far from average. We Brits pine for the hot, dry summers enjoyed by those living on or around the Med. But as a whole, we are by no means the wettest country by a long shot!
My home town is Bracknell, about thirty miles west of London, and eleven miles east of Reading, our nearest city. According to statistics collected both from the Internet and from a world atlas, annual global average rainfall is 990 millimetres or 39 inches. In the UK, London and the South East are relatively dry, with 583 mm, or 23 inches a year, which is way below global average. In turn, Reading has up to 625 mm, allowing Bracknell with an approximation of 600 mm, or 24 inches. On the other hand, the Scottish city of Glasgow has an annual average rainfall of 1,205 mm, or 47.5 inches, or nearly four feet deep, which is 215 mm, or just over eight inches above the global average.
Worldwide, the statistics are wide. But although the Sahara is the driest area in the world, with an annual rainfall of just a few millimetres, there is far heavier rainfall along the Equatorial regions, such as in the central regions of Africa, which has an annual rainfall of up to 2,474 mm, or 97.4 inches. In turn, Borneo of Oceania has up to 4,974 mm, or 156 inches, while over Cherrapunji, north-east India, average annual rainfall between April and September is 10,922 mm, or 430 inches. But it can be argued that these regions have the monsoon season, with an interspersing dry season, making the weather fairly predictable. As here in Britain, weather is unpredictable with year round rainfall, yet the wettest region in the world with year round rainfall is probably Lloro, in the Choco district of west Colombia. This coastal strip which borders on to the State of Panama has an annual rainfall of up to 13,300 mm, or 523.6 inches. That is more than 43 feet. This sort of statistic certainly makes Britain look more like the Sahara!

I was fortunate when I visited Cairns in North Queensland in 1997. It is literally the wettest area of the whole of Australia, with an annual rainfall of 2,151.3 mm, or 84.7 inches. But like other Tropical regions, the Autumn month of March has 453.4 mm, or 17 inches of rain, compared to the dry Winter month of August, with just 35 mm, or 1.4 inches of rain. Although thick scudding thunderclouds sat over a nearby forested hill, throughout my five-day visit, the area remained dry enough to have made catamaran trips to the Great Barrier Reef possible. Cairns is a classic example of having tropical monsoon season-based climate with an alternate dry period.

Cairns Harbour, with cloud over a forested hill, North Queensland, 1997.

The Bible and Rainfall

The Bible rates rainfall as a blessing and among the temporal gifts of God. In this present fallen, post-diluvian world, the present meteorological climate system, with "the battle of the fronts" is the best system we can have to sustain life. Perhaps the key verse to this subject is Matthew 5:45, (KJV) which reads:

...That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makeeth the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

And this is over the Middle East, which has hot, dry Summers and temperate Winters, as with the rest of the Mediterranean. Yet in Leviticus 26:3-4, Moses wrote:

If ye (Israel) walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

This is repeated in Deuteronomy 11:13-14 which the promise of rainfall was conditioned on a whole heart love for God and obedience to his commandments:

And it will come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

Still further throughout the Old Testament, rainfall is conditioned by keeping God's statutes, such as Isaiah 30:22-23 where he wrote that if Israel repents of its idolatry, disposes of all its images, and serve God alone, then he will send rain to bring new life from the ground.

But there is a big problem if rainfall was conditioned upon the nation's obedience to God. This was highlighted in Psalm 14, where King David wrote that God looks down from heaven to see whether there is anyone who has an upright heart and loves God with all his soul, strength and mind. Instead, he sees that they are all corrupt, they have done abominable works, and there is none who does good, no not even one person. Nobody sought after God, nobody called upon him. Therefore, if rainfall was conditioned on commitment and loyalty to God and upon one's own righteousness, then the whole of mankind would have became extinct long before Jesus Christ came to atone for their sins! Therefore, in his grace, or undeserved favour, God sends rain anyway to sustain life. For example, Acts 14:17 reads:

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

A confirmation from Job 5:10 which he says:

Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields.

Although in Psalm 65, King David was referring to national repentance of Israel towards God, something many scholars believe will happen in the future, his care for the land on a worldwide scale becomes obvious when we read verses 9-13, which is a good description of the planet at present (NIV):

You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with corn
for though you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty
and your carts overflow with your abundance.
The grassland of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with corn;
they shout for joy and sing.

This is certainly how much of the land around the world is at present, and that despite that the greater majority of the world's population do not know the Lord. Yet his sending of the rain to sustain life demonstrates the love of God to the world, as depicted in John 3:16, and his act of grace for life to survive. But there is more to all this. The reason for life as we know it to be sustained is really threefold:
1. For people to come to God through faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and inclusion into his coming Kingdom.
2. The establishment of churches worldwide so that communities of God's people can mingle among the rest of the population, providing a light and a witness to those who are lost.
3. God's everlasting covenant with Israel, not the covenant of works as laid down by Moses, but the eternal covenant of grace God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jeremiah chapters 30-32 gives a full prophecy of this Abrahamic Covenant, along with Ezekiel chapters 36-37, and Zechariah chapters 13-14.

Prayer for Sunshine?

As we had seen, rainfall is one of the temporal gifts of God, as opposed to the eternal gifts such as salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Rain is essential to sustain us. But here in the UK, we have the tendency to compare our climate particularly with Mediterranean lands, and prone to envy their long, hot Summers. Little surprise that foreign holidays to these destinations have grown into one of the nation's largest and most profitable business. I once read a book written by an ex-Jehovah's Witness about us as mainstream Christians preparing ourselves should a couple of Witnesses knock on our door. She then concluded:
We should be ready to meet them. Instead we worry about next month's coach trip to Bognor. Don't we realise that there's a war on? 
Our worry over a day trip to Bognor was not based on the failure of the coach turning up, or suffering a breakdown halfway there, or for that matter, someone falling into distress while out bathing. Rather, with such a prospect of a day trip to the coast, the first thing we worry about is the weather.

It brings me back to last year in 2012, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. I have wondered how many true believers have prayed that the day of the Pageant along the River Thames would take place in fine weather. I have wondered whether there were churches, particularly in London, who set time aside to pray for good weather on that day. The fact was that almost the entire Pageant took place under torrential rain.

On the day of the Ascot Life Church fete, or Fun Day as we call it, we were weary of the weather.  So is praying for sunshine biblical?

The only recorded occasion where the weather came under prayer was when God revealed to Elijah that there would be a forty-two month drought across Israel (1 Kings chapters 17-18). But this had nothing to do with a day trip to the coast! The drought was brought by God to bring backsliding Israel to repentance, particularly under the leadership of King Ahab. During the drought, Elijah was first fed supernaturally by ravens, then he lodged in the house of a foreign widow outside of Israel. It was during that time, when the land became parched dry and people began to go hungry, that he held a contest between the God of Israel and Baal, and his 450 prophets. After two altars were built and the fire came down supernaturally on God's altar, it was clear that the whole intent of the miracle, and the drought, was to bring the people back to faith in God.

And this could be the reason why some places, such as regions and various countries in Africa, suffer drought. To a certain extent, conditional rainfall based on obedience to God's statutes still apply. But more likely, it is to do with bringing the inhabitants to the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. And what could be a better way for the Christian church to demonstrate their faith but to feed them, and provide clothing and other provisions. James the apostle was quite particular on this matter. In his letter, which mentions Elijah and the drought of his day, he emphasised that faith without works is dead, and therefore just saying to these Africans that they believe in God, and not showing any form of hospitality, will have no impact on their lives, and remain unimpressed with their Christian profession.

When the 42 months were complete, Elijah prayed seven times for rain to fall, and at the conclusion of the seventh prayer, a cloud was seen above the horizon which led to a heavy downpour a short time later. But the miraculous change of weather, meant to have brought King Ahab to faith in Israel's God, instead led to the betrayal of the prophet to the wrath of Queen Jezebel, Ahab's wife, for the slaughter of the 450 prophets of Baal.

Elijah's prayer over the weather is in line with all other miracles found in the Bible, to bring people to faith in God and his salvation. The raising of Lazarus by Jesus, recorded in John 11, was a good example, with Jesus explaining the main reason for the miracle, which is for the crowds to see for themselves that Jesus is the Messiah and therefore to believe, and have eternal life - verses 41-42. In fact, John himself had concluded his whole Gospel with the explanation that all the works Jesus had done, and were recorded were so we would believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and by believing, we can have life in his name (John 20:30-31.)

So should we pray for sunshine, or at least dry weather, for a church to hold an outdoor event? No, I don't think we should. But by his grace, God does at times answer prayer on this matter, as he did on our Fun Day. But it it happens to rain on the special day, then rather than blame God, we should look upon our motives. If the event is church-centred, chances are that it could still rain on the day. Rather, God will only manipulate the weather according to our prayers if such intervention is necessary for the saving faith of a person or a group of people - as was the case with Elijah, and of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Oh well, after all that, it's Crete later this year - God permitting...


  1. Hopefully you will have good weather when you and your wife go to Crete Frank, God permitting.

  2. When someone is praying for sunshine for their holiday you can bet there's a farmer somewhere praying for rain for his crops ;)

  3. Fascinating post, as always, Frank! As I am writing this it is pouring torrentially here in "sunny" Florida, with thunder and lightning. Not unusual for this time of year -- Tampa deserves its nickname of "lightning capital of the world." I feel blessed to be indoors in our cozy home! As I check the weather forecast daily just so that I'll know whether to bring the umbrella for short trips in the car, I can certainly understand why knowing the weather predictions is so critical in your line of work! Praying for your safety and wishing you a wonderful time in Crete!
    God bless,

  4. Good stuff Frank! Excellent post :)

  5. You see, we Brits are never satisfied hey; if it's cold, we complain, if it's raining, we complain, and when the sun finally comes out we're all complaining that it's far too hot! Oh boy! Sometimes it's better to leave it all to God and just hope things turn out fine on the day.

    By the way, like the new pic you've put up, and you're wife is really attractive, and looks like a hippie chick; I guess you are definitely blessed Frank!

  6. Hey Frank! I always enjoy your posts! You told me that Daniel is one of your favorites. Here aze a few extra facts about him.

    Daniel's life inspired more stories than those in the book named after him. (You may have heard this one). One such story, preserved in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles is about Daniel killing a "dragon" that the Babylonians worshiped. The dragon was probably a huge snake.

    Daniel killed it with a hairball-a lethal concoction of tar, fat and hair. The dragon exploded, proving it was no god.

    Have you ever heard about that?

    God Bless,

  7. Hi Frank! The book I got this information from is titled "Who's Who and Where's Where in the Bible. The little "blurb" I told you about Daniel said that the story was "preserved in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, whatever they are. God Bless,