When people see Christians pray they can react in two ways. Let us take for example a simple prayer for God to send rain.
For some outside the Christian faith this might seem like a novel idea. As Christians, both in private, in small groups and public gatherings, we often ask God to send the necessary rain. It is implied in the petition of the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread” and flows out naturally from our conviction that we are dependent upon God who is the ultimate primary producer.
For others to pray is a dangerous thing for us to be doing. As one person put it, “aren’t you taking a risk in asking for rain?” “Won’t you run the risk of people failing to believe if the rain doesn’t come?”
What they might not understand is that Christian prayer is never to manipulate God; rather it is our expression of trust in God who is both sovereign and caring. We trust him for answers to prayer. If the rain comes we thank Him. If it doesn’t we continue to trust Him. We conclude that in His Fatherly care He has other things to teach us if He withholds the rain. We may need to learn repentance for failure to be grateful to Him for past blessings. We may need to take stock of our lives and begin to replace sinful thoughts, words or actions with godly other-person-centred ones.
Jesus reminds us that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust alike. His goodness comes as a grace common to all. When it comes, as it has in most of the years past, our proper response should be of thankfulness and trust.
The goodness of God in creation is always meant to bring us humbly to Him in forgiveness that we might receive the even more needed grace of pardon through His Son.
Both God’s sending and withholding of rain are reminders of His mercy. They are both meant to evoke gratitude and obedience from us.
All prayer, whether for rain, for strength or thanksgiving, for praise or for others is the only proper response to God the Father for His care, God the Son for His pardon and God the Holy Spirit for His comfort. It has been said, “What a man is alone upon his knees before God, that he is – and no more”.