September 14, 2017
A recent editorial in one of the dailies, (The Nassau Guardian, Tuesday, September12, 2017) in The Bahamas, evoked a flurry of discussions regarding storms and the impact that prayers have on the outcome. The editorial noted, "the weather has nothing to do with gods, prayer, religious icons or chants. Rain falls. Earthquakes happen. Volcanoes erupt. Hurricanes pass over. Tornados ravage. If you are in the path of these natural phenomena you could be hurt or killed". However, the editor added, "A prayer would not weaken a storm. Some are lucky not to be in the way of dangerous natural phenomena. Others are not. There is no divine hand deciding who lives or dies in hurricanes, for example, based on the diligence of prayer or religious devotion."
Position of some Christians
The above does raise questions especially to Christians as they believe just the opposite - that prayer, while not magical, may result in a changed course of a natural event or disaster. It is their opinion that God controls nature and as such, can determine the what, where and the impact of a hurricane, earth quake or tornado. In fact, Christians believe that one's daily life comes under the divine control of God.
Can both be correct?
Given these the two views enunciated of luck and prayer, can the editorial and the Christians both be correct? Usually, it is believed that it is one or the other; right or wrong; black or white; either or. But not the two. However, when it comes to God and theology, there is what is referred to as "a tension" meaning that it can be both. And in this instance, there is some value to both positions. Thus, begs the question what is it?
The view that nature has laws and regulations is not unfounded. In fact, there are systems and there are laws governing nature and the weakening of those laws and a lack of adherence to can result in negative and disastrous happenings, such as global warming and land erosion. Additionally, it is anticipated that the sun will rise at a given time and set at the appropriate time. Also, depending on where one lives in the world, he or she can expect disasters of varying natures. But does that preclude the ability of God to intervene, alter or prevent the natural course of situations? The answer is absolutely "no". God is God and as creator and sustainer, He can determine the course of situations.
Therefore, Christians are not wrong in advocating that prayer was a determining factor in saving lives in the Bahamas from the recent passage of Hurricane Irma. To explain, the Bible is replete with examples of such happenings. For instance, the turning of the sun 10 degrees backward (Isa. 38:8); introducing rain when it had never rained before (Gen.7:4); allowing a huge fish to swallow a human being and that and being regurgitated alive (Jonah 1:17); being thrown into a fiery furnace and coming out unscathed or touched by the fire (Daniel 3:20-29); going into a den of ferocious lions and not being touched (Daniel 6:23-27); walking on water (Matt. 14:29) etc. Without question, the aforementioned all go against the various laws of nature, clearly underscoring that God can do exactly what He chooses to do and when and where He determines. It is this reality that Christians live with each day mindful that the God they serve is alive and very much in control.
A mystery remains
However, there is a major question that has been implied in the editorial and it is this: Why would God spare inhabitants of The Bahamas by diverting a storm from many of its major islands, but did not do the same for the people in St. Martin, Cuba, Anguilla, Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Florida and Georgia? This is indeed a mystery and only God can ultimately answer. However, what can be known is that, God does not always intervene in situations and sometimes He does. At times, He may choose to save one person out of a crowd. We can recall stories of a plane crashing and most of the people surviving. For someone not fully aware of how God works may interpret that as being luck for the survivor(s), whereas a Christian would see that as a direct divine intervention. Quite frankly, that is how I see it and thus both outlooks have some merit in their positions. When one encounters God in a dramatic sense of a rescue or deliverance, the normal objective statement may transition to one of subjectivity. By that I mean a position changes because of a personal experience and encounter with the Lord. And therefore, such person may say, "I know that God is a prayer answering God, and I know that He can do anything He chooses to do." The Hymnologist Fanny Crosby fully understood that as implied in the lyrics of one of her favorite hymns, "This is my story, this is my song praising my Savior all the day long." Therefore, again I wish to note that the diversion of Irma was not a matter of luck but an act of God. And as for the unfortunate experience of persons elsewhere we will understand it better by and by. But until then, the child of God will keep on trusting in Jesus. According to Romans 8:28, nothing happens by chance in the life of one who loves God even if he can explain it.
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