Praying for Rain

Stomping the mud of another county fair off my shoes and doing yet another load of laundry with enough dirt on it to begin my own excavation, I ponder the weather. Although we are daily reminded that we have no effective control of the weather, one of the most common prayers I hear uttered is for “good weather.” I could have done with a little less rain and a bit of broken sunshine with a temperature of 78 and humidity of 20 percent, but I didn’t bother to ask for it. Once at Nashotah House we the faculty (and the student body) were asked to pray for good weather for an outdoor liturgy. I was both bemused and alarmed that a high-ranking priest made that request of us in all seriousness. Perhaps the biggest problem is that, as much as we like to deny it, we are like other creatures considering our immediate environments. We lack the big picture.

Our neglected atmosphere is the key to life on Earth. So immense that it coats our entire planet with the gases we all need to breathe, as well as some gases that have little apparent function in our particular setting, it is a simple matter to take our atmosphere for granted. And yet the weather affects every aspect of our lives. When we ask the Weatherman for an adjustment in our region, we are requesting a graduate-level course of calculations in fluid dynamics to be undertaken just so we can get the right mix of weather conditions for our picnic or day at the beach. Hackneyed to the point of caricature is the rain dance — that ritual that is expected to end a drought.

In the twenty-first century, people who rely on science to keep them safe from severe weather by predicting hurricanes and tornadoes with accuracy still pray for the weather they want in their little corner of the globe. If watching Jurassic Park taught me anything, it was that a butterfly flapping its wings in China might cause rain in New York. Chaos theory has demonstrated the intricate connections between all components of a complex system. The atmosphere is one of the most complex systems on earth (well, around the earth, actually). Rev. Chuck’s church picnic weather is integrally tied up with typhoons that may be drowning thousands of people in low-lying coastal regions of Asia. And yet we just can’t resist asking for the weather to tip in our favor. In the Bible it worked for Elijah, so why shouldn’t it still work for us?

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