Saturday, 15 January 2011

Spare us O Lord!

There was an item on the news tonight saying that a Mass is going to be said in Rome for the flood victims.  That is great news.

But I think what we really need to consider now is serious intercessory prayer - and perhaps some repentance - seeking an end to the dreadful weather pattern that has Australia in its grip.

More to come

The flood continues to take a toll of homes in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and elsewhere, with some towns hit two or even three times over the last few weeks, cleaning up only to find themselves underwater again.

And at the entirely self-interested level there was a worrying report today in The Canberra Times that noted that the pattern of flooding experienced in Australia to date has so far eerily followed long-term meteorological predictions.  And that on that basis, the nation's capital Canberra, where I live can expect to be battered by relentless storms starting shortly and continuing for the next two months, and face bad flooding.

Like much of the surrounding region we've had an abnormal amount of rain over the last several months (today was our first day of actual sun in more than a week), coupled with abnormally low temperatures for summer, so that the ground is absolutely saturated.  Our dams went from half full and strict water restrictions this time last year, to 100% full in November last year. And we've already had one round of flooding that cut our satellite-town Queanbeyan, in two, blocking one of the main roads out of town.

So how should we respond?

Taking its toll but pulling together

Well obviously there are practical things Canberrans and others can do to prepare - mentally, physically and spiritually.

In that light, it has been wonderful to see the great surge of volunteer effort in the clean-up of Brisbane today, where thousands of volunteers from unaffected areas poured in to help clean-up the CBD and individual homes.

But events such as these call, I think, for more.

A call to repentance?

It would be only too easy to suggest a very long list of the possible reasons why Australia (and many other countries that are quickly secularising) might have earned God's ire at the moment.  So I won't construct a list. 

Nope, I certainly won't blame the recent election of the Greens and collaborators to the Federal Parliament, and their relentless campaign for euthanasia and other evils. 

And I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that the floods may have rather put paid to the Greens' demand that MPs conduct a summer consultation with their constituents over gay 'marriage' legislation! 

Nope, because that would be way too simplistic....

Yes, I actually do mean that.  Well, maybe.  After all, we could, I suppose be be the righteous suffering Job-like for reasons to do with God's greater plan. 

Hmm, well...

Bring back those intercessory prayers!

But, still, whatever the reasons for the disasters, when God sends tribulations our way, the correct response is surely to turn to him and acknowledge our dependence on him.  To examine our consciences and repent, and try and persuade others to do likewise.

So please, pray very hard indeed that God might spare us more of this.

In Canberra, perhaps we should be praying particularly hard, and lobbying once again, for our MPs and Senators to reject the 'Territory rights' argument and vote against the Euthanasia Bill when the Parliament resumes. 

Would a general 'Dear MP, I'm a Canberran and I don't want the Federal Parliament to allow our House of Assembly to have the power to legislate on euthanasia' campaign be of any use?

And maybe our bishops and priests could consider introducing intercessory prayers at Mass and introducing devotions for the alleviation of the floods, just as we did only a short time ago, asking for an end to the drought....


Stephen K said...

Dear Kate, prayers of petition seem a natural thing to do, if one conceives of God as an interventionist superbeing (Rex mundi). After all, people in all climes, times and cultures have been petitioning God (and their gods). But I would like to ask how you make sense of the serendipity of results from petition in the light of "Ask and you shall receive" words attributed to Jesus.

Of course, a familiar explanation is that the ways of God are mysterious. I am also mindful of the value that petitioning represents in expressing concepts like the dependence a creature ought properly to reflect towards a Creatpr (capital C). But my own considered conclusion is that it is far more efficacious to write or lobby a politician or to stand for Parliament oneself than to pray he/she will do what you yourself would think you would do if you were in her/his shoes, or simply make up sandbags and go out and help others move, than to pray that God will alleviate the Australian floods in ways Brazilian floods have not been.

Do you still think the bishops and priests should introduce intercessory prayers at Mass?

Kate said...

Dear Stephen - the short answer to your question is yes, we do need intercessory prayers - stopping the floods certainly won't be achieved by standing for Parliament!

But on your question about the efficacy of prayer, I do believe that prayer is indeed efficacious.

We had a recent shining example of that with the rescue of the Peruvian miners, whose first reaction to being trapped was to start praying rosaries!

The best biblical exemplar of our proper response to this type of situation to contemplate is perhaps the Book of Job, where Job (with extreme reluctance) warns the people of Ninevah that God is going to destroy them. Job sits down to enjoy the smiting (the Ninevites were enemies of the Jews). But the people of Nineveh respond by putting on ashes and sackcloth, and fasting. And God relents...

The bottom line is that God always wants us to pray and acknowledge our dependence on him, and ask for the graces he is waiting to bestow on us.

Whether he will answer our prayers in quite the way we want, or as soon as we would want is another matter. The various injunctions in Scripture need to be interpreted in the light of obedience to God's will - they require our prayers to be purified so that God's will becomes our intention in our prayers. And it is to achieve that purification and penetrate God's will that we pray.

You can find a useful article on this here: