The words of California Gov. Jerry Brown were all too familiar to a lifelong Californian: “Don’t flush more than you have to, don’t shower longer than you need to, and turn the water off when you’re shaving or brushing your teeth.” We have been through this drill before during years of drought. And observing the news across the country, I could see that Midwestern and Eastern states are challenged with quite different circumstances. As California confronts only 12 percent of its average annual snowfall, other communities endeavor to deal with a polar vortex that dumped volumes of snow and ice, closing schools and businesses, interrupting transportation, and shutting down much-needed utilities.
While praying about the drought in California, I’ve recognized a need to address both ends of the spectrum – surfeit and shortage. Neither extreme expresses the perfect balance that the kingdom of God promises. In considering how to pray, I naturally turned to the Bible for its rich stories that provide inspiration. One that particularly struck me is from II Kings, chapter 4. Although it doesn’t directly address weather, it illustrates the fact that God answers prayer in generous and surprising ways.
In this example, a widow who is unable to pay her bills begs the prophet Elisha for help so that a creditor won’t take her two sons to work off the debt. Elisha doesn’t get down into the problem; instead, he asks what she has in the house. This lifts her thought to what she possesses – a meager pot of oil – rather than her want. The prophet then directs her to borrow vessels from her neighbors and pour her oil into their vessels. As she pours the oil, her own bottle never runs out, but when she fills the last container, hers stops producing more. She then sells the oil and pays her debt.
Through my prayer, I realized that God always gives us exactly what we need. Proverbs 16:11 declares, “A just weight and balance are the Lord’s.” God never balances good with evil. In her book, “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy observed: “[E]ach recurring year witnesses the balance adjusted more on the side of God, the supremacy of Spirit;...” (p. 321). Can’t we expect this as a result of our prayers? After all, Spirit, God, orders its universe in perfect balance, therefore, in perfect harmony. Christ Jesus promised that this kingdom of God, this atmosphere of heaven, is within each of us.
Looking to climate patterns and human theories won’t adjust the weather. Why? Because they start with the problem, rather than with the truth about God’s universe. In her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy writes: “Knowing the Science of creation, in which all is Mind and its ideas, Jesus rebuked the material thought of his fellow-countrymen: ‘Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?’ ” (pp. 509-510). This Mind and its ideas refers to God and His creation.
We’ll never find harmony and the kingdom of God in the material scene, yet we can expect to find the material scene harmonizing as we look to God’s omnipotence. Through prayer, we can take possession of our thinking by lifting thought and expectations to God. This proves to be far more effective than diving into a problem. Throughout the Bible, we find wonderful examples of gentle rain and food provided, storms calmed, and the sea parted, by just such prayer.
A number of years ago, before going on a business trip to Australia, I read about the extreme drought on that continent which had gone on for six or seven years. I prayed to know that God, as the sole provider of all good, hadn’t fallen off the job. That, despite the picture to the contrary, God could be trusted to supply all that we need, every moment. My prayer directly addressed the mesmeric picture of depletion that had occupied thought, and replaced it with a heartfelt assurance of God’s love for His whole creation. You see, that false image was being projected on a perfectly balanced universe. Now, I know I wasn’t the only one praying about this. But my prayer certainly joined the chorus of others who knew that God loves and provides for His entire creation. Within a day or two, it began to rain, rather unexpectedly. It rained the entire time I was there, and before I left for home, the news reported that the drought had been broken.
We can expect to meet the drought in California and other threats through prayer that begins with God’s abundant goodness and power.