If you have not heard, California is in the midst of a terrible drought. This is the fourth year of the current drought and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better. The snowpack is at an all-time low, reservoirs and rivers are steadily dropping, and water rationing seems to be on the horizon.
As Christians, what should our response to this kind of situation be? I think that we are right to pray about this and ask God to miraculously intervene. After all, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18, ESV). It is a good thing to pray about our physical world and for our physical needs.
But I think that we should additionally let the physical conditions of the world prompt us to remember the spiritual conditions too. The people who are physically thirsty here in California are spiritually thirsty as well. When we pray for God to pour out rain on our land, will we pray for God to also pour out his Spirit on our people?
In a sermon titled “Praying for the Spirit,” Jonathan Edwards says much the same thing (but better than I could ever phrase it!):
If rain be withheld and there be a drought, everybody is concerned. It is spoken of and lamented how the grass withers, and how the corn dies, and what a poor crop there is like to be; and there is, it may be, a great deal of praying for rain. But there may be a spiritual drought year after year, and not only in their crop, but no harvest at all in spiritual respects. Souls may be generally withering and drying up. And God is not very earnestly sought to, not because God is not as ready to bestow these blessings as the other–for he is, as has been shown, more ready to bestow them…[we must] seek them with vastly greater earnestness and diligence than we do temporal things, they being infinitely more necessary for us and will be so much more profitable to us.”
To clarify, I do not mean to take away from the seriousness of the current physical drought in California. It is a worsening situation that has an incredible direct and indirect impact on millions of people’s lives. But what I do mean to do is bring to our attention how concerned we are for the spiritual climate here in California (and elsewhere). May the lack of rain remind us to pray for the Spirit to be poured out and may the lack of the Spirit remind us to pray for the rains to come and be poured out too. And ultimately, may we simply be reminded to pray.