Meteorologists predicted that Hurricane Rita would be the third strongest hurricane ever recorded when it hit the American coastline. Many reporters feared that Houston would suffer historic damage, being in its direct path. Many people evacuated the region to take refuge elsewhere.
I heard this news in Atlanta, where I was leading a seminar for pastors on the House Church. I was reminded of a Bible passage: “Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:17-18) I was especially impressed by the first part: “Elijah was a man just like us.” So I suggested on our church web site that we pray for Hurricane Rita to weaken and change direction to a less populated area. In addition to our church members, many pastors and friends all over the world started praying after they read this prayer request.
Then, the unthinkable started to happen. Hurricane Rita changed course. An article in the September 22 Houston Chronicle said the following: “Rita made a sharper-than-expected turn to the right, and it appeared that Houston and nearby Galveston might escape a direct hit.” As we kept praying, the hurricane weakened further. The Chronicle reported, “Hurricane Rita weakened this morning from a top-of-the-scale Category 5 hurricane to a Category 4 as it swirled across the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters said it could lose more steam by the time it comes ashore late Friday or early Saturday.” It was a Category 3 hurricane when it hit Beaumont, a port city 80 miles east of Houston. As I saw things progress, I was simply awed by God’s power.
Some skeptics may argue that there are natural explanations for what happened and say that it was not necessarily an answer to prayer. This may or may not be true; it is impossible to prove either way. But when things happen regularly according to people’s prayers, it is more reasonable to conclude that they were answers to prayer.
Some may ridicule the notion that the course of a hurricane was affected by prayer. If God changes the weather according to people’s prayers, what would He do if some people prayed for rain and others prayed for no rain? But it is God’s job to resolve this dilemma, not ours. Our job is to let God know our needs. I would not mind if God didn’t grant my wishes after I prayed, but I would mind if God didn’t grant my wishes because I didn’t pray. “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)
Even though the hurricane was a disaster, it became a source of thanksgiving for us. It helped us experience the awesome power of God, who can subdue a mighty hurricane and change its course. We also experienced the love of Christian brothers and sisters as they offered their homes for our church members who fled to other cities. We also experienced true fellowship as many pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world prayed for us, some even fasting on our behalf.
We serve an awesome God. I consider it a privilege to offer my life for Him.