Is it right to pray for rain? Does nature have a mind of its own answerable only to the inherent laws of the universe? Can prayer change natural phenomena? These questions are decidedly more serious than simply asking God for rain. If Jesus is God and God controls everything then why would Jesus, awakened by the disciples in the midst of a storm on the Sea of Galilee rebuke the wind and waves (Luke 8:22-25)? If nature was already under his control, why would Jesus have to do rebuke anything?
The answer is quite obvious. There are things in this world that are not under God’s direct control. In God’s love for creation, He created it with freedom. It is a gracious freedom that allows us to obey God without coercion. True love doesn’t have to love, it wants to love. It is love and fellowship that God desires to have with His creation. God’s permissive will, therefore, allows for natural and human contingencies – out of love. God’s permissive will has allowed this wonderful planet about which He declared, “It is good!” turn into a place of decay and disobedience.
However, before we proceed to tell God we would have rather stayed in Paradise without freedom than have freedom and lose Paradise, let’s be sure we understand what is lost if God had so ordered things. AParadisewithout choices might seem tempting at first glance, but if God controlled everything we would be mere puppets jerked around by divine machinations. Even if only benevolent jerking, it would still be jerking. Living in a perfect world without true freedom wouldn’t be perfect. It would generate a passive fatalistic attitude about life that would breed even less concern for both the people and environment around us. We would say, “What will be, will be,” and be done with things. Don’t you want people to love you because they want to and not because they have to? It is the same with God and creation. He has given us freedom because He loves us.
This leads us from His permissive will, to His direct will. God’s direct will is that through Jesus the whole world has a gracious measure of his grace. Some would call this natural grace. United Methodists call it prevenient grace, from the Latin prevenio, which means “coming before.” It is a grace that precedes our response. Through the work of Christ and his resurrection, the whole earth is given a measure of grace, enough grace at least to respond to God’s overture to humankind through Jesus.
In other words, the image of God has been restored to some semblance of its Pre-Fall condition through Jesus, enough so that every person has the God-given ability to accept God’s mercy. God’s direct will was that in Jesus we would all see His permissive will for what it really is – not some abandonment by an unconcerned Creator – but as a specific claim on our lives and our planet by a God who so loves us that He is willing to let us freely yield our lives and our very beings to Him.
Bad things happen because we don’t yield, others don’t obey God, evil, or mainly because the very creation and its laws reflect a world given over to decay. So how do we respond to this freedom? How do we reconnect with God so that we can return to Paradise? The answer is FAITH. So when you’re asked to go to a prayer meeting for rain, carry an umbrella. Jesus asked of His disciples in the boat during the storm, “Where is your faith?” Faith encourages us to ask God to intervene and use His direct will and give us rain. It is faith that also helps us accept the fact that sometimes He doesn’t intervene and His permissive will allows nature to withhold its nourishment. Either way, faith is more than necessary; it is all that we have and it’s enough!