Taking charge of the weather?
As a fair number of Christians believe that God’s sovereignty means He is in control of everything that happens in the world, it has led some to assert that the Divine regularly intervenes and controls our weather in ways that align with prayer requests. However, as we saw in previous posts, the Christian experience of receiving positive ‘weather’ outcomes in regard to prayer request is no better than even-stevens and just as likely to correspond with the vaguries or anticipated certainty of weather for those regions. For example:
rain on the west coast of Ireland, sun every day in Arizona.
Now, surely if God was answering prayers regarding weather, every weekend in the UK would be sunny and Christmas Day would always have snow – but this doesn’t happen- why?
Well, either God is not answering prayers requests or he is impervious to petitions for this sort of thing. Indeed, from my experience of talking with people who genuinely believe God is answering prayers for the weather, the words I frequently hear (when I point out that God did not answer their request for fine weather) is something along the lines of:
‘It doesn’t matter what you think – God loves people and is able to do anything he wants because nothing is impossible for Him.’
Now, while I whole-heartedly agree with this statement, I do not accord with the premise that is behind it. Yes, God does love us and there is nothing outside of his sovereign control that will thwart Him. However, the important thing we need to remember here is that prayer is not about human wants and needs but about God and what he is willing to do in a situation to bring about His Kingdom purpose and plan. And, hard as it is for some believers to accept, a Saturday afternoon of glorious sunshine does not necessarily constitute an advance in God’s kingdom intention.
Indeed, even when a wedding ceremony or baptism service has been wholly honouring to God and a testimony to the way he has worked in the lives of the people involved, there may still not be a reason for God to intervene and keep the specks of rain from the photographer’s lens. After all, the weather remains secondary to the principle aim of the occasion, which is to see the couple married and to glorify God in the process – two objectives which might just as easily be facilitated through a ‘washed out’ day as it would though a picture-perfect event that enabled photos of the wedding or baby with godparents to be filmed outdoors.
Having outlined the reasons why prayer requests for sunny weddings are unlikely to feature high on God’s priority list, let us turn our attention to the situations and circumstances where we might expect God to oblige our human requests and supernaturally intervene with the weather. Here, I am thinking about those occasions in which believers petition God to intervene with a meteorological solution for a pressing situation or pending disaster by praying for rain to abate in an area because people’s lives are at risk through flooding, or requesting rain to help a drought-stricken area suffering from famine.
Now, although each of these requests are surely far more worthy candidates for God’s intervention than prayers asked for sunny weather at weddings, the frequency of weather reports from across the world detailing floods, droughts, hurricanes (etc) strongly suggests that God doesn’t intervene in the majority of these situations. This is not to say that God is unwilling to answer our prayers but rather that He works in ways that are different from that which we anticipate and expect. Although God is powerful and capable of anything, he has clearly chosen to limit the way He acts within our world – especially where his intervention affects human growth and freedom. I am thinking here about the limits that God places on himself to facilitate a temporal world in which humans are free to do many things without divine intervention, enabling them to experience the consequences of their actions, be they good and bad.
And so too with the weather that may one day bless us with sun and on another day destroy our town with a flood through excessive rain that takes lives and brings misery. Returning to the Geography Revision Sheet I mentioned in the first post and its astute observation that
‘The climate of the British Isles is best described as changeable…’
Maybe we should add…
‘…and this has nothing to do with us petitioning God to change our weather.’ (Bob Eckhard, 2018)