My Prayer for the Last Six Months: ‘One Dry Day’

ForColumbia 2017And God said, “No.”

This past Saturday, April 29, marked my second year of coordinating – along with an amazing team of volunteers – ForColumbia, a community-wide day of serving among what has grown to include 48 churches partnering to love and serve our city.

For months, I’ve been praying for this day.

  • I’ve been praying that churches would want to come alongside each other to serve our city.
  • I’ve been praying that individuals would willingly step up to lead the dozens and dozens of projects we hoped to coordinate.
  • I’ve been praying that more individuals would step up to serve on the actual day.
  • And mostly, I prayed for dry weather. Many times.
    • I let God know that whether it was 50 degrees or 80 degrees, sunny or cloudy, I didn’t mind. I just wanted a dry day, absent the kind of moisture that makes it hard to do so much of the outside work we had committed to doing.

Clearly, God did not see fit to give me what I asked for, what I thought we all needed. Saturday, April 29, brought with it a record amount of rain for our city. Noah might have felt nostalgic to see this much water coming down. By the end of the day, the Columbia area received 4.46″ of rain, a record-setting amount. More precipitation than the average we normally get for the entire month of April. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard such a resounding “No!” in response to a specific prayer request.

What is God up to when we ask Him for something, and the answer is so clearly “No?”

I think at least one answer lies in our response, and what He is revealing in us. Will we kick against the goads, getting angry when we don’t get what we want? One seemingly ill-timed rainy day is nothing compared to some of the unanswered prayers I know others have faced.

  • I know many people who have spent months begging God to repair their marriages, only to watch helplessly as their spouse packs his bags and leaves the family anyway.
  • I know people who have received devastating health news and have died too young…despite hundreds of prayers for healing. I know many others who have lived prayerfully through a family member’s declining health and eventual death.
  • I know a lot of women who desperately want to be mothers and yet remain barren.
  • I know people who have prayed for years for unbelieving family members and have yet to see anything remotely like a positive answer.

Particularly true when what we are asking for “seems like such a good thing,” it can be all too easy to get angry with God. “Why?” is the cry of many whose prayers are met with what feels like four-plus inches of rain. “No.”

When the outcome of a situation is the opposite of what we really wanted and our response is to get upset, our hearts are revealed, and what we’re being shown is that we think we know better than God what outcome is best.

It likely also reveals that we are far more concerend about our own agendas and our own business than God’s business. Jesus was always “about his Father’s business” (John 5:17) and, oftentimes, we think we are too. Especially in Christian service, we tend to think that we’re “all about our Father’s business,” until our way falls apart, and our resistance to God’s way reveals whose agenda we were following all along (Matthew 7:21-23).

Unanswered prayers can also drive us to the truths and promises of God.

His ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) The Creator God, who lives outside of time and space and can see the entire story, knows so much more than we can even conceive that it should be mind-blowing.

He alone knows why it was better to flood mid-Missouri than to bring sunshine this past weekend.

Perhaps through the difficulty of serving that day in the downpour, He was more glorified by the attitudes of the volunteers that were able to work. (I certainly saw a lot of people serving with joy despite the rain, and some because of it!) Perhaps He is multiplying the good that will be done in our city by extending the time it will take to accomplish this year’s work. Maybe relationships will get a chance to deepen more than they would have had we finished up in a day.

Or maybe, temporally speaking, this year’s ForColumbia just won’t be as visibly successful as we all might like; less mulch will be spread, fewer flowers planted, less paint spread on walls. But maybe the faith of many was tested and strengthened, and perhaps the promises of God became sweeter.

I know plenty of people who went through divorce and came out the other side of it knowing Jesus, some for the first time in their lives. They would never have chosen that path on their own but, forced down it, they find themselves with an enlivened faith. At the end of the day, we don’t need to know what God is up to. We need only to trust that He is a good God, that He has not forgotten us, that His ways are higher than our ways.

I do know that God used the rain to reveal some issues in my own heart. For that, I am grateful, and as I head into a week that should have been a week of clean-up and rest – and instead face a full agenda of more work – I will choose to trust that God’s ways are not Shelly’s ways, and that He is up to far more than I am in mid-Missouri. I want to be a part of His agenda, not seek to attach Him to my own.

Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV)
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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