Rain

I’m not one for rain. I prefer sunshine and warmth. But when it started to rain this morning, joy filled my heart and in my head, I broke out in song:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him ye creatures here below. Praise him above, ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

You see, we are having a very bad drought in South Africa. Our farmlands are dry; food prices are constantly going up. In Johannesburg, some schools have had to close due to the lack of water. The Eastern Cape is dry as a bone. In Cape Town, we have less than 100 days of water supply, and forest fires have been raging through our mountains.

Water is precious, so our hearts are full of joy for today’s rain. We give thanks to God.

Over Christmas break, I read the book The Circle Maker and found in it a refreshing look at prayer. The book starts by telling the story of an ancient prophet named Honi. When the Israelites were suffering from severe drought, he drew a circle around himself as he stood in the stand. Honi prayed for rain and refused to move from the circle until God sent rain. Honi was a bit audacious. When it started to sprinkle, he told Gold that wasn’t the type of rain they needed. When it started to rain hard, he told God that wasn’t the type of rain they needed. When it started to rain steadily and gently, he thanked the Lord for the rain, for providing for his people. Check out the story of Honi at http://www.thecirclemaker.com/watch

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Picture of the rain from my office window

Water is precious. Experts say that the next world war (let’s pray that it will never happen) will not be about oil, land, or ideology. It will be about water.

Please continue to pray for us in South Africa, as we need many more days of gentle, steady rain.

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Praying Pains

Back-in-the-day: Dad & Nicole
Back-in-the-day: Dad & Nicole

It was my dad who taught me to pray. When I was little, Dad and I would kneel beside my bed and pray together, Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. God bless, Mommie, Daddy, Phillip, (the twins, when they came along), Grandma, Auntie, Benji (my pet rabbit), Spot (my dog), and a host of other animals and things on my child’s mind. I remember feeling like such a big girl when Dad taught me the Lord’s Prayer.

When I became a teenager, prayer became something I did at church or with my family. Occasionally, I would pray on my own—when I needed something from God. I did not find much meaning in prayer, although my parents modeled a lifestyle of prayer for me.

As a young adult, prayer confused me: How to pray? Does God really hear me? Why should I pray if God knows what is on my mind anyway? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? At times, prayer made me angry. Why pray, when God doesn’t listen—or even worse, doesn’t care?

In my early 30’s, I went through some bad relationships and some awful break-ups. I was angry. Was I doomed to have a broken-heart? Why didn’t God do something? Didn’t he care? I was annoyed with well-meaning people who tried to make me feel better with comments, such as: God knows what is best for you. Don’t worry, God has the perfect man for you at the perfect time. Maybe God wants you to focus on him right now. Make God the center of your life.

Those comments seem to discount my pain. I was hurting. Where was God in the midst of my pain? Then over the years, three people said some simple things that caught my attention:

Robin, my friend and former boss, assured me that God feels my pain and cries with me. God, my Creator and God, feels my pain and cries with me too? He is present in my pain? Wow. Now this is something to which I can relate, something onto which I can latch.

Fr. Leigh, my rector, said in one of his sermons that God was not despondent to our pain. Seriously, I thought—is that true? God truly cares about my pain? He emphasizes with me?

My friend Agatha once said in a passing conversation (I think with someone else, not me) that she prays to God and expects him to respond—why not? It was like I heard her comment in my mind, saying, Duh. If I pray, why wouldn’t I expect God to answer? She wasn’t saying that God would answer our prayers always with an affirmative but that God would answer our prayers, that we would always get a response. (My mom used to tell me this, but I never listened her. It took a person from outside the family to get this truth across to me.)

Now I am on the other side of young adulthood. Prayer is still a mystery to me. I still don’t get it or fully understand it, but it has become an integral part of who I am. I thank my dad for teaching me how to pray, my parents for modeling prayer for me, and my friends and priest for revealing some important elements of prayer to me.