This summer our nation was stricken with unprecedented drought, accompanied by forest fires in the extremely dry areas of the country. According to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, our grain supplies were cut severely due to this year’s drought. If the same thing happens next year, some experts expect all surplus grain supplies to be depleted. If the drought occurs the third year, we will have genuine famine conditions.
Many theories have been devised to account for these conditions, the most popular being that pollutants and excessive amounts of carbon dioxide are trapping heat and preventing its escape from the earth’s atmosphere … thus producing a serious warming trend and drought conditions. This produces the same effect as a greenhouse, and has caused the entire globe to become hotter. If the trend continues, without some major changes in the way we are polluting the environment, some analysts project that by the year 2050 the midwestern region of the United States – presently our richest farmland – will be a virtual desert, forcing the major population of this hemisphere to migrate to Canada. Excessive heat, according to this analysis, will cause the melting of parts of the polar ice cap and put The Netherlands under water.
While protection of the environment is important, and while there is no question that we must guard against pollution and work for cleaner air and water, we must remember that this is the first century in the history of the world that anyone has ever kept a technically accurate record of the temperature. And while it may be true that the last few years have been the hottest years on record for this century, who is to say that there have not been other centuries when the temperature was hotter?
This illustrates perhaps one of the greatest mistakes of 20th century man: he continues to interpret the present and make projections about the future with no reference to history. If we don’t know what has gone before us, or if it is ignored or considered irrelevant, we may find ourselves trying to reinvent the wheel.
The Cause of Drought:
Scientific or Providential?
King Solomon, the son of David, speaking about the course of nature thousands of years ago, asked this question: “Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”? Already it has existed for ages which were before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:10).
We must never forget that it was after the catastrophic judgment of a world-wide flood, which changed the climate of the earth forever, that God promised Noah, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” God has been faithful to that word for the better part of five thousand years of the earth’s history, and it is not likely that He is going to change His mind significantly over the next fifty to sixty years.
There have been, however, throughout the years of man’s history, various droughts that have plagued the human race. The Bible not only records many of these but predicts them as well. The Bible also gives accounts of uncontrollable fires. God’s Word also records the reason that these droughts and fires occur, and also documents their remedy.
It would be foolish to ignore a book with such a record of accuracy and success. Thousands of years ago God laid out the circumstances which can bring on drought conditions. To the nation of Israel, God gave this instruction through the prophet Moses: “If you walk in My statues and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit …
“But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, … I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent uselessly, for your land shall not yield its produce and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.”
However, God continues, “If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they have committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me … then I will remember My covenant … and I will remember the land” (Leviticus 26:40,42).
It was the belief of the founding fathers of our nation that God had brought them into a new promised land, even as he did Israel of old. Examination of their writings reveals irrevocably that our founders believed they were entering into a covenant with Almighty God. The Pilgrims knelt on the shores of New England and, through a covenant with God, dedicated this land and those who would inhabit it to the service of Almighty God. They believed the way that the United States was founded followed the same pattern as ancient Israel, and because it was born out of a covenant with God was subject to His laws.
They identified the following scriptures as their own: “For the land into which you are entering to possess it is a land of hills and valleys that drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.
“And it shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that I will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain … and I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied.
“Beware lest, your hearts be deceived and you turn away and serve other gods … or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit …” (Deuteronomy 11: 16-17).
According to the Bible, one of the first ways God deals with the sins of a nation is to shut out rain from heaven and send drought. The Bible also indicates that many times the drought will be accompanied by fire. The prophet Joel described such a scene with vivid detail: “The seeds shrivel under their clods; the storehouses are desolate, the barns are torn down, the grain is dried up. How the beasts groan! The herds of the cattle wander aimlessly because there is no pasture for them … for fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness and the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.”
Then the invitation goes out from God: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him …” (Joel 2:12-14).
Our Need for God’s Mercy
The United States is a needy nation. Our wickedness has, in one sense, grown to full maturity. Perhaps we thought that God did not see our national sins, or that He did not care. But our land has been drinking from the cup of judgment over the past 25 years. The assassination of a president, an unsuccessful war in Vietnam which took the lives of so many of our young men, rampant venereal disease, AIDS, the slaughter of the innocents through abortion … all are evidence of God’s certain judgment. America leads the world in crime and divorce.
Our children are not safe in the streets, in the classroom, or even in their own backyard. Our intellectual superiority has been so on the decline that we are now leading the Western industrial nations in illiteracy. And now, in an attempt to bring the nation into account for its wickedness, through drought and fire God has moved His hand to begin to take away the staff of life. If these conditions continue, famine will become inevitable.
As the Lord exhorts, “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:13-14).
At a time like this we need to turn to God in genuine humility, prayer, and repentance. Richard Halverson, Chaplain of the U. S. Senate, says “… the roots of our greatness as a nation are spiritual and moral. The greatest threat to our civilization is secularization, which has eliminated the spiritual from serious discussion and precipitated epidemic moral decline which exceeds the best and finest efforts of the most powerful. Nothing is clearer that God alone is able to rescue our decaying society; nothing is clearer than that He waits for His people to reject materialism as a way of life; and that the crisis requires repentance from worldly waywardness and devotion to prayer.“1
As Halverson points out, the spiritual has been separated from the secular for so long that we now have immorality in epidemic proportions. This problem eludes the efforts of the greatest and most powerful. What we must have is a heaven-sent awakening. What it is going to take is repentance from worldliness and devotion to prayer.
Unfortunately most of us did not recognize that the drought and the uncontrollable fires of 1988 were a signal from heaven. To most it was a simple annoyance. When the events ceased to be a focal point on the evening news, the whole situation was forgotten and most of America went back to business as usual.
But we must never forget the admonition of the writer of Hebrews: “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven” (Heb. 12: 25).
American poet John Greenleaf Whittier once stood gazing with silent wonder at Niagara Falls, overwhelmed by its beauty and the mighty thunder of its waters hurling down into the chasm. Suddenly an Indian who was at his side plucked his sleeve and said, “An enemy is coming!” Astonished, Whittier asked, “How do you know?” “Because I heard a twig break,” the Indian explained. John Whittier had heard nothing but the roar of the waters, yet the sensitive, discerning ears of the Indian warrior had heard the snapping of a twig above the thunder of the raging Niagara.2
In the clamor for success, the preoccupation with worldly interests, the cares of this life, and the noisy din of self-interest, jealousy, competition, and selfish ambition, have we lost an ear to hear the Spirit of God pleading with our nation? Or do we even care that the sinful state of our nation has fully ripened to such a point as to call down the judgment of Heaven?
As we see our sin-sick society and the judgments of God falling as fire from heaven, what cord of response does it strike in our hearts? Do we respond as Abraham who pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah? Do we respond as Moses when he pleaded for God to spare Israel – asking Him not to remove His presence from that nation? Do we respond like the king of Nineveh, who learned of the coming disaster and called for his city to fast, pray, put away wickedness, and to seek God’s mercy? Do we really want an awakening? Do we really want another Pentecost? Are we willing to devote ourselves to prayer to see these things come about?
Prayer demands devotion, strength, and holy resolve. Are we wearing ourselves thin in Christian activity, or are we maturing in spiritual warfare and relationship to God? We must be careful that we don’t persuade ourselves that preaching, teaching, or writing for God are acceptable substitutes for prayer.
A Place of Power with God
There is a place of power with God where one can touch the eyes of men – blinded by both spiritual and physical blindness – and they will instantly receive perfect sight. There is a place of power with God where one can say, “Arise!” to dying captives bound by the chains of darkness. There is a place of power with God where one can reach the store of hoarded wealth and free it for the Lord. There is a place of power with God when heaven’s resistant power becomes responsive to one’s insistent plea. There is a place of fellowship with God where He Himself descends and fights for you. However, that secret place is only found in prayer.
The disciples knew this. They did not ask Jesus to teach them to preach. They did not ask Him to teach them to feed multitudes or to raise the dead. They had seen Jesus preach; they had seen the miracles, the signs, and the wonders. They had seen the way He had affected their nation. They had seen Him gather an entire village to hear His message. Yet they did not ask to be taught His methods of delivery, or His style of preaching, or the proper procedure to perform miracles. They wanted to know His secret. They wanted to know His way of access to God; they wanted to know how He got His prayers answered.
To Jesus, devotion to prayer was a way of life. Jesus lived and breathed praying. After he came from the Jordan, He prayed; before choosing the twelve disciples, He prayed all night. He loved praying. After a hard day’s work, He would go out to the lonely places to pray, or would get up long before sunrise and go out and pray somewhere. He also died praying. So they begged Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They knew He had success in prayer by the answers He received. What kind of answers have you been getting lately?3
Just prior to Stalin’s eviction order, one of the last missionaries to leave China spent his last night with some of the believers in his large church. As the Communist soldiers were waiting to escort him away, the pastor tearfully said, “Why are these men here?” Then answering his own question he went on: “They are here not because the government has failed, but because we believers have failed in prayer and witness.“4
Like the Indian at Niagara Falls, or this Chinese missionary, many pitfalls could have been avoided if those who claim to be Christians in the true sense of the word had ears to hear the Spirit of God. Because we are not yearning in prayer, men are not turning to God.
The reason why there are tearless, sparsely populated prayer chambers is because people are filled with anger over trifles, but unmoved over the wolves of lust and immorality that are devouring the youth, and destroying the homes of our land. Christians are angry due to personal slight, but are not angry at the immorality and debauchery that pours forth from the airwaves everyday, polluting the minds of children and adults as well. Christians are angry at one another, or members of their own households, but are not enraged at the lives of millions of unborn children who are ripped out of their mothers wombs through abortion – or offered as demonic sacrifices.
As the apostle Paul arrived in Athens and walked about the city, “His spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). We must ask ourselves: when was the last time our spirits were roused to anger at the sin that presently engulfs our nation?
Before Israel went into the Promised Land, the Bible records that the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. They invited the people of Israel to their sacrifices, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal-peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord.”
While these orders were being carried out, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the doorway of the tent of meeting. Phinehas, one of the sons of the priests, saw it and arose from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand; he then went after the man of Israel into the tent and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through the body. So the plague on the sons of Israel was checked.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel, in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’” (Numbers 25:11-13).
We must ask ourselves, how long has it been since our souls were filled with jealous anger over the sin that surrounds us? Or are we so busy that we just try to ignore it and hope it will go away? Prayer has a way of bringing things into sharp focus. If we are in a spirit of prayer, we began to see things the way that God sees them … and to feel about things the way God feels about them. Spending time in prayer is the best way to be delivered from cultural irrelevancy.
There are resources in God that have never been touched, and spiritual wealth that has never been gained. There is power in God that we have left untapped – all because we have been prayerless, faithless, and unbelieving.
As the Psalmist wrote thousands of years ago, “He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” But where is this weeping over the lost today? Some say they would like to weep but they are too pressed by business to be devoted to prayer.
It is “precious” seed we are to bear. The seed is a costly seed. But, are we willing to spend what it takes to buy that seed – time devoted to prayer and self-sacrifice? Or are we just finding time to pray when it is convenient? Do we only pray when we are prompted by special bulletins? Do we just give God the scraps after we have spent our energies on everything else?
One thing is certain, that if we go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, we will doubtless return rejoicing – bringing our sheaves with us. Revival will only come to an obedient, humble, praying people. It will only come to a heart that is aflame with the Spirit, yearning for a touch from the Almighty.
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart,
My zeal inspire.
As Thou hast died for me,
So may my love to Thee
Pure, warm, and changeless be a
A living fire.
- Ray Palmer
1 “Prayer Summit,” National 40 Days of Prayer, 6813 N. 11th, Tacoma, Washington 98406.
2 Leonard Ravenhill, “Revival Praying,” (Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, Minnesota), p. 137.
3 Ibid., pp. 128-141.
4 Ibid., p. 30.
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved