Praying for Rain

by the American Sunday-School Union

It was the first of July. There had been no rain for several weeks. Every one feared there would be a drought. The farmer looked anxiously upon his fields of corn, whose deep green leaves had not yet begun to turn yellow, and upon the potatoes, whose blossoms were still unwithered. They could not long remain thus beautiful and thriving, if the refreshing rain was withheld. The ground was so dry that, in hoeing the garden, no moisture could be observed.

Mrs. Dudley talked with her children about the need of rain, and the propriety of praying to our heavenly Father to water the earth, that it might "bring forth and bud," and "give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater." She told them how Elijah prayed for rain, after there had been none in the land of Canaan for three years and six months, and how God heard his prayer, "and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit."

This great drought was a judgment upon the people of Israel for their sin in departing from God, and worshipping idols. There had been, in consequence of this want of rain, a "sore famine." We read in the book of Kings of one poor woman, who had only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse. When Elijah met her, and asked her for water, and a morsel of bread, she told him this was all she had, and that she was gathering two sticks, that she might bake it for herself and her son, that they might eat and die! She know not where to find any more food for herself or her child, and expected to "pine away, stricken through for want of the fruits of the field," and to die with hunger.

Elijah bid her not to fear, but go and do what she had said. He asked her to make him a little cake first, and bring it to him, and afterwards make one for herself and son. "For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."

It would not have been strange, if this widow of Zarephath had been unwilling to divide her handful of meal with Elijah, or if she had doubted the promise which was made to her, but she did not. She baked the little cake for the stranger, and afterwards one for herself and her boy, and there was plenty of meal and of oil left for another repast. "She, and he, and her house, did eat of it many days." The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, till the Lord sent rain upon the earth, and her wants could be supplied in the usual way. She did not lose the reward promised to those who give a cup of cold water to the friends of God.

God does not willingly afflict the creatures he has made. He is a gracious God, merciful, and of great kindness, and has compassion even on the beasts of the field. When Jonah complained that he spared Nineveh, because its inhabitants humbled themselves before him, and turned from their evil way, after having sent him to prophesy to them that in forty days it should be overthrown, he said to Jonah, "Should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six-score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left; and also much cattle?"

In this long drought in the land of Canaan, the cattle must have suffered greatly, and many of them probably perished. Indeed, we read that Ahab, the king of Israel, and Obadiah, the governor of his house, searched the land for the fountains and brooks, to find grass to save, the horses and mules alive, that they might not be all lost.

God is a Father, and, like a tender, loving father, he removes his chastisements so soon as they have produced the effect designed. He was "grieved for the misery of Israel." He told Elijah he would send rain. The prophet went to Ahab, who, when he saw him, asked, "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" Elijah answered, it was Ahab, and his father's house, who troubled Israel, because they had forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and worshipped Baalim.

Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel, and earnestly prayed for rain. God had promised that he would send it, and Elijah no doubt pleaded this promise, as he interceded with him. He directed his servant to go where he could look towards the sea. He went and looked, and said, "There is nothing." Elijah was not discouraged. He knew God would remember his promise, and he sent him seven times more. The seventh time the servant returned, and said, "Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand." It grew rapidly larger and larger, till the sky was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.

James, in his Epistle, says, "The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much," and he mentions this instance of prevailing prayer in Elijah, as an encouragement to all Christians to ask for needed blessings. "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are," he tells us, and if he prevailed with God, so may others. God is the "same yesterday, to-day, and forever." He does not change. He is always a hearer of prayer.

Mrs. Dudley also told her children that God hears the cry of all who are in distress. She referred to one of the psalms of David, where he describes a storm at sea, and the great terror of the sailors. "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivers them out of their distresses."

God does not forget any creature he has made. He provides the springs and the streams to give drink to the beasts of the field, and to the birds which sing among the branches. He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man. He feeds the fowls, and clothes the flowers with beauty. He has taught us to ask for our daily bread, and as this must depend upon fruitful seasons it is proper we should ask for rain, whenever it is needed.

The children were quite interested in what their mother had told them. They knew that she earnestly desired rain, and that she often asked God to send it, before vegetation perished for want of it. They watched the sky with great anxiety, and when it became cloudy, and continued so from day to day, they thought surely a storm was near. After several days, there was a slight shower, but not enough to refresh the plants. Mary was greatly disappointed "I thought," (she said to her mother,) "it was going to rain in answer to your prayer."

"I thank God for that little rain," said Eddy, as he talked about it. Mrs. Dudley told him that was right, but they ought to pray for more, it was so much needed.

The next Sunday Mrs. Dudley was not well, and could not attend church. When her children returned she asked Mary if they prayed for rain. "No, mother!" she answered; "but I did."

The sky continued cloudy for some time, and then the rain gently fell for a day and a night, and all nature was refreshed and cheered.

Soon afterwards I left Mrs. Dudley's family. When I had been absent about a fortnight, I received a letter from Mary. She told me about the bantams, and the flowers, and many other things in which I was interested. She wrote that it had "rained on Sunday, and all day Monday. I cannot help thinking," she continued, "how good God is to send us rain when we most need it, and what cause we have for thanksgiving."

I hope Mrs. Dudley's children will never forget that God is the giver of every good gift, and that he likes to have people ask him for what they need. Children should think of God as their best friend, and should go to him in prayer, feeling as sure he can and does hear them, as they are that their mother does. In a season of drought they should ask him for rain, and when he sends it to make vegetation grow, they should thank him for that evidence of his loving-kindness.