In Utah and much of the West, reservoir levels are dropping to an all-time low. Many people are praying for rain, hoping that the reservoirs can be refilled and people have the water they need.
I too have prayed for rain and tried to cut water usage at my home. As I have done this, I have realized that my prayers for rain can create problems elsewhere.
In a simple example, I had a painting project to do outside to help improve an area of my home. I booked time in my schedule to paint outside on a Saturday, but when that Saturday came, the skies were threatening rain.
I did not have a lot of free time in my schedule, and rain that day could delay the painting until a few weeks later. I found myself offering a silent prayer that it would not rain that day so that I could paint.
As I did that, I realized that I had offered the same prayer earlier too, when I had scheduled an outdoor gathering for my neighborhood. The night it was scheduled for had a storm come in and make everything too cold and windy (the rain came a little later) for people to gather outside. That night I had said a silent prayer that the weather could cooperate for that night.
In thinking about these two situations, I realized that I was offering contradictory prayers, simply because I was not fully willing to give up everything necessary to have it rain. If I was sincere in my prayers for rain, I needed to be willing to reschedule anything else in my life when the rain came.
On a larger scale, I would watch as storms would come to Utah. Many of them came from California after picking up moisture in the Pacific Ocean. These storms would often hit areas in California that had been affected by wildfires, causing mudslides, flooding, and other serious issues for people there.
I am sure that they were praying for safety and protection, for the storms to pass, and for help. At the same time, we were praying for rain in Utah.
Some of these storms would continue on across the country, meeting other storms coming from the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes, tornadoes would spawn from the various storm fronts meeting, destroying homes and towns.
As I reflected on the simple prayer of “please help it to rain”, I realized how much that prayer impacted my personal life and the lives of many others. I needed to be willing to give up other things to have what I prayed for, while I also needed to recognize that the thing I was praying for could result in harm or damage to someone else.
As my mind thought on these principles, I wondered how many of my other prayers contain similar contradictions. I reflected on a time when my car kept breaking down. The car was a Volkswagen, and the dealer charged a fortune (in my opinion) to work on it. Due to that, I found a man that fixed cars in his backyard and that did a good job. He was far more reasonably priced, so I took the car there instead.
On my third or so time dropping the car off to him to work on (all for different issues that came up in a short period of time), I remember thinking “I’m trying to save some money to help my family and kids. Why can’t the car work for me?” After asking God that question, I had a thought quickly enter my mind saying, “he is praying for ways to help his family too.”
As we talked, I learned that him and his wife had come from Asia, seeking the American Dream of independence. He worked hard, but he and his wife were struggling to find ways to pay for the care necessary for their special needs son. My whole attitude changed as I realized that I also prayed for ways to be able to help people.
My prayers for a car that worked were, at that time, in conflict with my prayers to be able to help someone. The mechanic was a hardworking man, and, while I had other plans for the money I paid him, that money was a direct answer to his prayer.
In other words, the good things we pray for may be a negative experience for someone else, while the negative things in our lives may be an answer to someone else’s prayers.
Additionally, we may need to understand that when we seek something, we likely need to be willing to forego other things that may get in the way.
I am still trying to sort through my conflicting prayers and desires, but I have noticed potential conflict in some of the following:
Praying for health without exercising;
Praying for work to be more successful without setting aside any additional time to do the work;
Praying for more money without looking to change my job or work situation;
Praying for my kids to be happy without changing my schedule to spend more time with them;
Praying for more money and happier kids without considering which one is more important to me than the other if I only have so much time in the day;
Essentially, I am learning that if I believe good is real and possible, then I need to be willing to weather the storms of life, I need to be willing to let go of other things I desire that are not as important, and I need to trust that there is a bigger plan. As I think about the problem of praying for rain, I am grateful for the lessons it teaches me about myself, my desires, and how limited my vision is in considering all that is at play in the things that happen in my life and the world around me.
At Believe, we are working to change the world, for good. That often means that we have to learn how to be better at sorting through the internal conflicts we each may face. We are building a community of like-minded people who are willing to work on these things, and we would love to have you join us. It will require a shift in the way that you see and interact with the world, but we fully believe that your presence and contributions will change the world in a way that no one else can.