Three things Harvey and Irma Teach us About Prayer

“…He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.” Daniel 4:35; NKJV

In anticipation of what could be one of the worst storms of modern history, I heard some interesting responses from the Christian community. They’ve been rolling through my mind like a tumbleweed, spurring more questions than answers.   

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I remember something that occurred at a restaurant where I joined a group of women for lunch. We bowed our heads around the table before the meal.

“I saw you were praying,” our server remarked afterward. “Are you Christians?” he asked.

We each affirmed yes we were.

“I’m a Christian too,” he beamed.

His deep southern drawl prompted one of our group to ask, “Where are you from?”

“New Orleans,” he said. His eyes were alight and his voice eager. “I lost everything in Katrina. A host family from Kansas City took me in. They introduced me to Jesus. He changed my life.”

His smile was like sunlight after a storm.

“I am so grateful for Katrina,” he said. “It was blessing to my life.”

With that as a backstory, let me introduce my recent discomfort when someone said these words, “God is bringing judgement to Houston with Harvey.”

Inside I questioned, “How do you know it’s God’s judgement?” It’s possible, there is sin in Houston, but there is also sin here. However, both Christ haters and Christ followers woke up homeless in Houston where it rained on the just and unjust. (Matthew 5:45) Perhaps Harvey’s blessings will far outweigh its curse. Perhaps because of its destruction, the church will shine glorious. It may bring people to Christ, as Katrina did for my restaurant server. The catastrophic results may produce a beautiful harvest.

In past days I’ve heard several requests for various pre-determined prayer results, that Irma would change path, for homes to avoid damage, and for God to stop it. Throughout Scripture God leads people at times to very specific requests, but first He asks a heart melded to His will.

My thoughts flew again to the bedside of my daughter and to dark days past when my desperate prayer was for God to do something, to show Himself for a purpose and to answer a why.

I remember how important it was for my soul to give God a blank check.

“Let God be God,” my husband told me. It was one of the hardest lessons in a situation where I wanted only a good outcome.

I can still feel the letting go of my pre-prescribed answers to prayer, a relinquishing of how I assumed God must act and submitting to His will regardless of outcome.

King Nebuchadnezzar, in the book of Daniel was driven to complete humiliation and madness. But, God used it to bring him from paganism to a place of belief and praise as he recognized God’s Sovereign hand. 

“…He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” Daniel 4:35; NKJV.

The same Father who sees the sparrow fall and clothes the lily of the field prepared a fish for Jonah, slavery for Joseph, and a prison for Paul. He hardened the Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, walked in a fiery furnace, and allowed the newly birthed church to suffer persecution.

This broken world’s greatest need is total surrender to an Almighty God. As children of God, our responses to storms of life must demonstrate humility and trust that the Master of the Universe will do the right thing, not that we have it figured out.

A lot of prayers, many of them first timers, have been prayed as a result of Harvey and Irma. Some are real and others not. God uses difficult times to bring our focus to Himself. These are times when awareness of eternity pricks even the hardest hearts.

So how do we pray in the events of catastrophe?

  1. That tragedy will result in worship. We can plead for people to be drawn to saving faith, that God might reach into the hard hearts and soften them to truth in Jesus Christ.
  2. For repentance and revival. Who knows the ripple effect that God may have already in place.
  3. That His church will demonstrate Christ. We can pray for the body of Christ to be His hands and feet, strength and comfort to those affected by the hurricanes.

God is in the details. He will bring about His glory.

“…No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” Daniel 4:35; NKJV.

His vision is long and His actions are with purpose.

Photo credits NASA