You know the old joke about the weather, right? Everyone talks, but no one ever DOES anything about it.
Well, in Texas last year, everyone was talking about the weather. As reported frequently on this site, the climate went berserk. So the state’s governor decided to do something: He issued a statewide proclamation calling all Texans to prayer. The governor urged – for a period of three days last April – “Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on those days for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.”
How bad was it, for the governor to call everyone to prayer? His proclamation listed a litany of miseries besetting the Lone Star State:
- 8,000 wildfires had broken out;
- 1.8 million acres of land had been burned;
- Almost 400 homes had been destroyed;
- And a tremendous financial and emotional toll had fallen upon the people.
And so Texans prayed. People of all faiths. And if they prayed as suggested by the governor, they prayed for the healing of their land, and the restoration of their normal way of life.
To some of us, that prayer sounds somehow familiar, doesn’t it? There’s a phrase in there that comes from the Bible. After King Solomon had completed building the temple in Jerusalem, God appeared to him in the night, and warned that the kingdom would face times of drought and pestilence. But there were powerful words of assurance:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turnfrom their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
“Heal their land” – just like the governor asked Texans to pray. Surely, God would hear and answer, if the Bible is what Christians everywhere believe it to be.
Well, in fact, the months following the prayer proclamation weren’t much fun for Texans.
- The 8,000 wildfires mushroomedto a record 30,457 by October.
- The 1.8 million scorched acres more than doubled to 4.0 million acres – an area larger than the state of Connecticut.
- The 400 homes destroyed by wildfire in the governor’s proclamation turned out to have been the tip of the iceberg: 2,946 homes went up in smoke by October.
- And the final bill from Texas agricultural losses came to a whopping $7.6 billion in 2011, almost doubling the previous record set in 2006.
- In only twelve months, Texas lost as many as 500 million trees to drought, excluding all those incinerated in the wildfires.
The figures are staggering, and our sense of accounting for loss grows numb.
|2011 Texas wildfires bigger than all of Connecticut|
So, you may wonder, where was God in all this? All this comforting talk about healing the land, followed by an unprecedented statewide calamity. Surely, some would see this as proof that he’s not really there at all – or doesn’t care.
But maybe we should take a closer look at God’s promise to Solomon. Anyone might have missed it, but it’s really not much like the governor’s call to prayer. You noticed the goal of the Texan prayer, didn’t you? Heal our land, for “the restoration of our normal way of life.” In effect: “Answer us, O God, so that we can go back to living the way we always have.”
Nothing could be further from God’s words to Solomon: If my people will pray – but also repent, humble themselves and turn from their wickedness – I will heal their land. God’s desired result was a radical change in their way of life, not a return to old patterns.
This is true for all people, beginning with me, and then you. I should never pray without expecting to be deeply changed. But how might the people of Texas consider an alternative to their “normal way of life” as they pray? To begin with, they might consider the unanimous warnings of Texan climate scientists, who see the current and future drought trends as linked to our human activities – our normal way of life.
They might consider Texas’ status as the country’s runaway leader in power plant greenhouse gas emissions, with more than four times the CO2 emitted by the much larger California economy.
Or they might give a second look to the environmental voting records of their Congressional delegations, among the very worst in the Senate, and only slightly better in the House, according to rankings by the League of Conservation Voters.
And lastly, they might look across the border at the suffering of drought-stricken Mexico, currently in the grip of the worst drought in 71 years, and with much fewer resources to adapt to the ravages of a climate on steroids.
For me, I believe that God answers prayer. But not all my prayers. Because when heaven is silent, perhaps I’ve forgotten about repentance; maybe I’m still hoping for someone to bail me out of my ongoing folly and wickedness; and maybe I’ve forgotten the plight of my poorest neighbors.
God give us the grace to humble ourselves, to seek him, to seriously ask how we may turn from wickedness and embrace mercy and justice. And then Lord, hear us from heaven, forgive us, and heal our land.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.