Did Prayer Slow Down Hurricane Florence?

This past Monday, Pat Robertson of the 700 Club spoke to Hurricane Florence in prayer, in Jesus's name, commanding it to go no further.

The following night, the hurricane drops from category 4 to category 2.  And then it hits land at a category 1.  (If my facts are correct.  And right now, the eye is just hugging the coast, barely making it on land yet.)

Is there a connection between his prayer and the quick, significant reduction of the storm's strength?

I don't know.  It's totally possible, but I don't know.

But that's not what I want to talk about.  What I want to talk about is how Christians should and did respond to Pat Robertson's prayer against the hurricane.

Of course, he got a lot of criticism from the world for his "magic, spell-like prayer."  But I heard that Christians were even criticizing him and making fun of that prayer.

Is that how we should respond when another believer prays a bold prayer?

I don't know.

My first reaction when I read how he prayed against the hurricane was to think "Oh no!  He's going to make Christians look bad.  He's going to make God look bad when that hurricane slams into land and hurts everything in its path.  People are going to think prayer doesn't work, that God doesn't listen, that He isn't real."

Anytime we pray, there's a huge chance God might say "no."  And if we pray publicly and boldly, then there is a risk that we make ourselves and our faith look foolish to other people.  At least, that's how I feel sometimes.  That's one of the things that stops me from wanting to pray the bold prayers publicly or from telling people the bold things I prayed for.  (I am totally not a "name it and claim it" Christian.)  In fact, it's what stops me from even wanting to pray the bold things privately, because I fear being told "no."  I fear getting hurt and let down by God, by my own hopes.  (Prayer always involves vulnerability.  And vulnerability is scary.  It's risky.  But is there really any other way to approach God than in humble vulnerability?)  

What if we make ourselves, our faith, and our God look bad because we ask Him and trust Him for something big ... and He ends up letting us down?  What if seeing that He didn't answer (the way we wanted) hurts people's faith in Him?  More than if we just didn't pray at all?

This is the kind of stuff that I think about when it comes to praying boldly.  How and when do we pray the bold prayers?  How do you word it in a way that doesn't make everyone look bad if He says "no"?  How do you keep the 'no' answers from hurting your faith, your heart?  

[I really am struggling in the area of prayer right now.  I have been for a couple years, since the summer that broke me - 2016 (go down to #16).  I know God works, that He responds to prayer.  But I don't know how to hope for things anymore.  I don't know how to want things.  When I think of the things I really want to pray for, I think about how many dozens of times I already prayed for them and how many tears I shed over them and how many 'no' answers I've gotten ... and I just stop and get quiet and don't know what to say.  (And yes, I do have a huge list of prayers God has answered.  So I'm not overlooking the blessings.  It's just that some of the 'no' answers have been huge, shattering, life altering.)

Sometimes, I just want to hunker down in life as it is, thankful for the things I have but not wanting anything more because I've seen too many wants go unfulfilled, too many dreams die, too many grand plans crash and burn, too many dark valleys.  I just want God to give me whatever He wants to give me, and I want that to be good enough.  I want to be content with what I have, not wanting more.  I just don't know how to let myself dream anymore or want more than what I have.  That's when you get hurt.  

(There is another reason I have trouble wanting things.  My ... well, let's just say my "unidentified relative."  He (or she) would see me trying to accept life as it is, giving up things I wanted, and he (or she) would be like, "Why don't you just go out and get what you want!?!  Make it happen.  Force it.  Don't let anything stop you.  I've always gone out and gotten whatever I wanted, never letting anything stand in my way."  And as he (or she) was talking, all I could think was, I know.  And I saw how it destroyed the family!  But that's a different story for a different day (...maybe).  (Dear God, don't let that relative read this!))    

I'm struggling.  I really am.  But I'm trying to understand, to carry on anyway.  I just don't know how to do it, other than to take one day at a time, keep being real with God, and cling to the Truth of the Word.  

I guess that's the good that comes from having your world shaken:  When all else is shaken, you realize that your faith in God is the only real, stable, secure thing you have.  Your mind turns from the temporary to the eternal.  Your eyes are opened to the spiritual battle that's going on all the time.  

Life might hurt more, but you see more clearly, more truthfully.  And that's a great thing!  The pain will only last a moment, but you'll be celebrating for eternity.  And that truth helps you hang in there, to cling to the Lord no matter what.  The best is yet to come!

I guess, when I think about it, the season I am in is like when Job sat before God in stunned silence, not knowing what to say after all the tragedies (I've been in that "Job silence" for a long while) ... and then he cried out to God honestly, pouring out all of his pain and frustrations (I have poured out my heart honestly, all the ugly fears and doubts and frustrations I've kept inside, with tears, with pleading, for a long time) ... and then God confronts Job with the truth of how big God is and how little Job is.  How much God knows and how little Job knows.  And it silences Job in humility.  

I guess I'm at that point, silenced in humble submission before God.  Not understanding everything, not getting all the answers I want, not necessarily knowing how to go forward ... but knowing that I don't have to know because God does.  That even though I feel so small and overlooked, He is so big and faithful.  And that's all I need to know right now!

My prayer so often lately is simply, "I don't know, Lord.  I just don't know anything anymore.  But I know You're real and I know You're listening and I know You're good.  Please, just be here with me and help me through and guide us as You see best.  Amen."]

Anyway, as I thought about his command to the hurricane, I feared that it might make a mockery of our faith and of God ... but then I realized that I can't snicker at it.  I can't assume that God would say "no."

What if God did honor that prayer?  What if God was waiting for someone to be bold enough to step up and show great faith in Him?  What if God was waiting for a moment like that to show Himself strong?  To show that He's real and He does answer prayer?  

What if failing to ask Him for the big things and trust Him for the big things does Him a greater disservice than praying boldly even though we might get a "no"?  What if failing to pray boldly hurts people's faith more because we show that we don't trust Him to listen, to respond, to handle the big things ... because we don't give Him a chance to glorify Himself through our faith-filled prayers ... because He fails to get the praise for answering prayer when we don't bother to pray in the first place? 

What if?

But then again ... what if God knows that even if He does answer the prayer and stop the storm that people still won't turn to Him anyway?  That they'll attribute the "miracle" to natural factors?  To anything else other than Him?

What if He knows that more people would seek Him if He let that storm slam into the coast and cause all sorts of destruction than if He stopped it?  What if stopping it would cause people to breathe a sigh of relief and then go their merry way, thinking nothing more of Him?  Forgetting or refusing to thank Him for His protection?  

What if God knows that we are more likely to turn to Him in tragedy than in abundance?  What if His "no" is the right answer, for reasons we can't see or understand?

I could see God, in His wisdom, answering in both ways.  

He could allow the storm to be devastating in order to bring us to our knees as a country (because, oh, how we would deserve it for the way we've been treating Him!), to realize that we are not little gods, not in control of our lives and world as much as we like to think we are.  To remind us that He is the Creator, and we are merely the creation, dependent on Him.

Or He could have mercy and spare the people and stop the storm, showing that He is indeed a God who answers prayer and who doesn't want to see us go through pain and devastation.

Whichever way He answered would be because He knows it's best for His purposes and His name and His glory.  (Sadly, though, I think no matter which way He answered, most people still won't turn to Him.  Either they will be angry because of the storm's devastation, refusing to turn to a God who would let that happen ... or they would be happy that the storm stopped, but fail to realize that it was God who stopped it.)

While I initially wanted to scoff at that prayer, I realized that I can't know how God will answer.  I can't assume that God's got His head in His hand, shaking it back and forth, going, "Oh dear, that Pat Robertson's gonna make Me look bad with that prayer."

Maybe, just maybe, God is more honored when we step out boldly in faith, when we ask in prayer, when we show that we trust Him to be a big God who can handle big things ... as long as we trust Him to answer in His own mysterious ways.  As long as we don't let our faith hinge on the answers He gives.

Whether "yes" or "no" ... God's got His reasons and will work it out for good.

And so instead of assuming the worst about that prayer, I prayed that God would honor the bold prayer Mr. Robertson prayed.  I prayed that God, in response to that prayer, would show Himself strong and active and real.  I prayed that if the storm did stop, people would realize that God did it.  That He deserved the glory and praise.  

I'm not sure how God will answer, other than the fact that the storm downgraded from a 4 to a 1 before hitting land (and that alone is a great answer to prayer).  But whatever it is, I pray that God will turn it into good, turn many hearts to Him, and use this for His purposes and glory.

We can't know how and why God answers the way He does ... but we can ask for what we want (while ultimately ending it with "Not my Will, but Your Will be done"), and we can trust Him to handle the things we can't, and we need to praise Him no matter what.

But whatever we do, let's never shrink Him, assuming that He can't or won't help us with the big things (or the little things).  Let's show that we believe in Him enough and trust Him enough that we are willing to ask, to pray, to place our concerns in His hands, and to give Him the room the answer as He will.

"The Lord answered Moses, 'Is the Lord's arm too short?'"  (Numbers 11:23)

Is the Lord's arm too short?  

Or do we just think and act like it is?

(And for those who wanted to ride out the storm:  When authorities tell you to evacuate, do it.  Don't put the lives of first responders at risk just because you didn't want to leave.)

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