I prayed for rain last night.
I know. It’s the middle of the winter, and it’s been so cold that my hands stay red for half an hour after coming inside. Any logical request would have been for snow.
The instantaneous reason came while I was driving home from school last night. I passed the Maverik station by my house and looked out at the mountains, covered with palpable, gray smog.
A few hours earlier, one of my classmates had shown me an article referencing the thick, sickening fog that had descended on Salt Lake City. Medical doctors and staff had claimed the situation had grown from discomfort to medical emergency and were asking for help from government officials. The conversation turned to the people we knew who had gotten sick recently, and thoughts of skipping school to leave the valley to stay healthy.
A day or two before, someone next to me had remarked that all we needed to move the fog was one good storm.
And that morning, my stress level jumped as I learned that Stanford was making final decisions for their PhD program in education, and the next few years of my life were hanging in the balance.
So I prayed for rain.
Every time I ask for rain, it rains. Whether I’m standing in the streets in downtown Naples, looking out my childhood bedroom window in the suburbs of Chicago, traveling on a business trip to Houston, or passing the Maverik station by my house. It always rains.
At first I thought that maybe it was a coincidence. That my prayers really had nothing to do with the rain. And, I mean, how could I think otherwise? Some blessings seem to be personal – they only directly influence a small radius of people. But rain is different. If it rains on me, that means it has to rain on a lot of other people – for better or for worse. How could I honestly believe that God would answer my prayer for rain, when so many people prefer sun?
That didn’t keep me from praying though. In the darkest hours of my life, when my mind was a perpetual storm, I pled with God that the world outside would mirror my reality.
And it did. The thunderstorms of my childhood weren’t relegated to the evening hours. Lightning struck in the middle of the day, and wind ripped trees from the ground, interrupting school and power alike, leaving the roads littered with leaves and branches and the still living bodies of trees. More than once, we were called home from school because of the storms.
It moved with me when I came to school in Utah. The year before my arrival was a drought. So, like everyone else, I prayed for rain. And it rained. I remember sitting outside of Deseret Towers on a bench, writing in my journal, confused with my life and the world. In my journal I prayed for rain. And before I could write another sentence, the drops had started falling.
It went to Italy with me on a mission, where I learned to pray for the rain to stop as well. There, rain would fall every Saturday. Sunday morning would come, and our prayers lifted the storm just long enough to get to Church on our bikes. Then, by 5:00, the clouds lifted and the people of the city went out on to the streets, just in time for us to gather as a zone and sing… one of the most effective finding tools of my mission there in Florence.
And then it came with me again to a time of frustration and struggle and ultimately triumph. Working out what it means to be a friend, my own desires to find a wife and move on in life, same-gender attraction and depression and frustration and accepting the facets that create my mortality. And all through the time, it rained.
I finally stopped believing the lie of coincidental miracles, and God continued to answer my prayers for rain. But the prayers shifted meaning – from a simple desire for water to a recurring request to know that God is involved in my life. To have the reassurance that I’m on the right pathway and that everything will work out for the best. The rain is proof, to me, that God is there and that I’m okay – a divine, outward manifestation of the answers He gives me quietly in my heart. Sometimes I feel like Joshua in the scriptures. When He goes to the Lord and asks for dew to fall on the sheepskin, and not on the grass… and vice versa… just to be certain that God was there and that He was actively guiding him in the fight for Israel. When I first learned that scripture story, it made me laugh that Joshua needed so many proofs of the Lord to find his faith. The irony is that I’m no different.
The difference, though, is that I’m not a war hero. I haven’t been tasked with defeating an endless host or leading a nation to the Promised Land. I’m just a guy trying to finish my homework on time, live my life and help others where I can. Which means that I still don’t know exactly why the Lord answers my prayers for rain.
I think that part of the answer resides in the simple phrase “I am a child of God.” God can and will do anything within His power to lift the lives of His children. To help them look heavenward. He inspires our hearts, opens our minds, and touches us in ways that only we can ever understand – proof that He is Lord of the Universe. Proof that He is ours. The rain comes on days when I do something amazing, and I feel His love. It comes on days of heartache, and I know He cares. And sometimes it comes just because I asked for it… and I know that I am a child of God.