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Praying for rain – will it make a difference?

Anglican Archbishop Philip Aspinall, Premier Peter Beattie and Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby looking for an answer to prayer.  Picture by Lorraine Page, The Catholic Leader.
Both Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall were expecting a cynical response to yesterday’s gathering of 300 people at an ecumenical service to pray for rain at Brisbane’s St John’s Cathedral.

But Mr Beattie maintained he was "genuine" in asking churches to pray for rain.

"I just ask people who have faith to, in the next week, exercise that faith, to pray for rain, and hopefully we will end up with rain and we can get through this difficult time," he said.

The gathering, which included politicians from all sides and the heads of 10 Christian churches, dedicated the next two Sundays as a special time of prayer for water in response to the dire need for rain in Queensland.

Archbishop Aspinall said that church leaders gathering to pray would probably be seen as a naïve attempt to manipulate God to do something that God wouldn’t otherwise do.

“If I were a gambler, I’d bet that what we are doing today will be misunderstood,” he said.

The Archbishop called for a less superficial assessment of the power of prayer which he claimed was neither opting out of human responsibility nor an irrelevant but otherwise harmless pastime to keep the religiously inclined off the streets.

“Prayer is like a partnership; a subtle interplay between God and human beings the result of which is God’s will being done, not ours.”

The joint letter to the Christian Communities in Queensland signed by Uniting Church Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman and nine other heads of churches said that they were aware of the challenge for the community to be worthy of the water that has been entrusted to us.

“We undertake to change our wasteful and destructive practices [and] care for the gifts and opportunities that God has given us,” the letter said.

This is not the first occasion that Mr Beattie has called for prayer for rain. The last official service was held in St John’s Anglican Cathedral in 2002 at the urging of the Premier Peter and four years on Queensland is still in the grip of its worst ever drought.

Trinity Theological College Head of Old Testament Rev Douglas Jones said he is happy to pray for rain and for the people in rural Australia who are having to or will have to deal with rural restructuring as a result of climate change.

“It is a pity that such people are among the first in Australia to have to deal with this harbinger of possible worse climate change impacts in the future,” he said.

“I suggest that we need to confess that we have bowed down and worshipped the god of mammon and have adopted ‘a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle’ whilst leaving the living God on the mantle piece as our western personal household god whom we dust off when it suits.

“Yes, I am happy to pray but when I see people in distress, I must ask whether I can do something about the cause of that distress.”

Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby agreed that not enough had been done to help conserve water.

"I think to a certain extent none of us have looked ahead," he told the Courier Mail. "I think we have become selfish. We think the resources of the Earth will last forever, and I think we are finding out that that’s not true.”

Queensland Uniting Church Social Responsibility Advocate Mr Andrew Johnson has encouraged people to look at the resources that have been prepared for the week of prayer. HERE.

“In talking to people about my involvement in preparing for this service, I have often been confronted with questions and critiques of our theology of prayer,” he said.

“I’d encourage people to take a look at the resources and hopefully discover a much deeper and broader theology of prayer than the media reports and talkback radio might suggest.”

Photo : Anglican Archbishop Philip Aspinall, Premier Peter Beattie and Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby looking for an answer to prayer. Picture by Lorraine Page, The Catholic Leader.