Last week, my church prayed for rain during the Sunday service and about ten minutes later, it rained. It really did. The downpour came after almost three months of dry spell. My church apparently broke the spell! The Facebook posts went wild with congregants praising God for the rain. Then, the next Sunday, that is, yesterday, my church went on record and made the announcement about the breakthrough prayer that tugged the heartstring of God to release the shower of blessings. That announcement triggered another downpour. It was a rain of applause.
I quietly rejoiced at the news and felt a little special for being a member of the church. However, I felt something amiss and this sets me thinking. My first question was this, "Is my church claiming sole and full credit for the rain?" I got this impression because the announcement was rather area-specific, that is, it mentioned that it rained in the North and the East. Now, we have two worship centers here and they happened to be in the North and the East. So, as a church member you can't help but have this feeling of being blessedly singled out by God.
But then, if we are claiming sole and full credit, are we forgetting about other churches as well? As far as I know, I heard that other churches were praying for rain too that Sunday. For example, one church in the East was praying for rain and it rained in less than an hour later. And another church also in the East was doing the same and it actually rained before their mass prayer ended.
How about the other churches all over Singapore? I am sure they had prayed as well and had thanked God for answering their prayer in the same way that my church thanked Him for answering ours. So which church's petition got the divine endorsement? Can anyone tell? Is it about approximation then? That is, the church that prays closest to the time of the downpour gets the credit. Now, let's see how this work.
My church got their prayer answered within 10 minutes. That's close no doubt. But then, as I have mentioned earlier, there was another church that got their answer in the course of their prayer. This means that even before they finished their prayer, God sent the rain! So, in ordinary pizza lingo, if my church experienced the normal delivery, the other church would have experienced the express delivery?
Think about it. If you were God, whose prayer would you have favored? My church? The other churches? Or it may just be your usual practice as the divine creator to wait for a day later before answering any request. If that is the case, my church's request would be off target because I heard that there were other churches who had prayed for rain a day before that Sunday.
What is even more of a wet blanket for me is the real possibility that other religions may have prayed for rain too in their own way. Of course, I am speculating here but what if they too had been praying for rain? Wouldn't that complicate the issue of divine attribution further? You see, if God had seemingly answered the prayer of his people at the same time that a group of Taoist priests were performing their rites for rain or a network of atheists were pleading for the same, wouldn't the confusion be even more chaotic?
So, gathering all my thoughts on this, I trust that my church is not claiming sole (and exclusive) credit for the rain, notwithstanding the impression given. I think it is more heartening to see it as God answering all the prayers put together regardless of approximation. I think God saw the hearts of his people, regardless of their denominations or affiliations, and he answered it as a collective (note that I am deliberately avoiding the hydrologic cycle of precipitation, percolation, evaporation, and condensation to explain this so called "natural phenomena").
In the end, I guess this prayer business is a tricky one in proving direct causation. Whose prayer got the divine creator's attention is as difficult a causation exercise as trying to decide who plays a larger role in reproduction: the mother or the father?
As a Christian, living in this modern age of climate science, we have come a long way from the time when our ancestors once thought that a lunar eclipse was a supernatural way of passing the cosmic message that god was displeased with his devotees’ human sacrifices. So, at best, it is a plausible correlation. At worst, it is pure coincidence.
You see, none would be the wiser if each church starts to insist that God had answered their prayer to the exclusion of the other churches. (And the irony is this: I am sure that churches would have prayed for rain a month or two earlier but the petition was probably marked "Returned to Sender." Those times were not known to us because nobody with half the mind would make a public announcement about unanswered prayers).
My point here is that there are just too many variables for all the dots to connect themselves in favor of one church or a collection of them or at all. I recall a saying that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (Arthur C Clarke) The problem here is that the natural cycle of rain and drought is a long accepted mainstream science that our children have been taught about in the classroom. It is therefore no longer that magical in the eyes of these children that rain happens as and when they do.
Alas, we adults see it differently. For some of us, we believe that when we ask God for rain after a long dry spell, it will come as per our request. And the rain comes for no other reasons except that we had asked for it. And because rain came, it has to be that God specifically had our prayer in mind when he blew the dark clouds our way in the exact volume and speed that we had asked for it. This unfortunately reminds me of those primitive tribes who carried out their own dance rituals to call down rain. On some occasions, the rain actually came either immediately after or in the middle of their dance. Mm...I wonder who answered their request? Cheerz.