Who Answers Prayers for Rain?

In some place the standing water seem like a small lake - paddle anyone?

It’s been raining for the last 3 days here in Amman.  It is winter, which, for Amman, means rain. But three days in a row is a bit unusual, especially with another day of the wet stuff forecasted for tomorrow.  Usually it’s just a few hour of rain every couple of weeks during the winter here. Or maybe a full day, but this weekend has been particularly wet. Which means that streets have turned into streams, stairways into waterfalls, and pedestrians have the extra task of dodging spray from cars besides just the actual vehicles themselves.

Notice the foam from chemicals and polluted runoff

Amman’s drain/sewer system was apparently not  designed for rain, so scenes such a the following are common when it rains, even just a little bit.

(Please note: these three pics were snapped back in Oct of last year.  Believe it or not I didn’t seem to have my camera on me at all over the last 3 days.  Strange.  But really, whenever it rains hard in Amman it usually looks like this.)

Pedestrians beware!

The last few days it has not only been rainy, but cold and windy and completely overcast – the exact opposite of stereotypical Middle Eastern weather.  Just the kind of weather that would get us complaining back in the States.  But you know, what?  I have never heard a Jordanian complain about the rain.  Ever.

Even people who you would think should complain just a little bit.  Case in point: our Egg McAmmani guy.  He is one of dozens (probably hundreds) of pushcart sandwich vendors around the city.  They typically have fantastic sesame-seed breads which they fill with your preference of roasted eggs, tomatoes, zataar, salt, hot sauce, cheese, and/or falafil.  We go for eggs, tomatoe, zataar and salt (with hot sauce if I’m not sharing with my wife).  We’ve never been able to get a straight answer on what it’s called in Arabic – people usually look at us funny when we ask and say, “It’s a sandweesh!”  Or if pressed further that might say it is a “ka3ak” the name of the sesame seed bread the sandwich is made on.  We call it an Egg McAmmani and it is one of our favorite breakfast treats at roughly 75 cents.

The "sandweesh" guy is on the left, while a cabby makes his own on the right. The cigarette ash no doubt adds a little something.

Anyways this guy should not be happy about a 3-day, cold, driving rain.  It’s gotta be bad for the sandweesh business.  Not to mention shivering in the cold under a drippy tree all day.  But this morning He greeted me with his usual smile and and said he  would work come sun or rain.  He did have an umbrella over his cart (which ironically, in arabic has a name derived from the word for sun as that is it’s more typical protective function), but despite the smile he looked cold.  When I asked him about the rain he said it was from Allah and gave thanks for it. This is normal here.  Everyone – Muslim and Christian alike thank God for the rain.  What is often seen as an annoyance or “ruiner of plans” in the parts of America that I have lived in, is seen here as a blessing and source of life.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus mentions by way of proverb that “God sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.”  I think there is a tendency back home for people to take that to mean that bad things (like rain) happen to both good people and bad people.  It’s much clearer after living in the Middle East that the true message of this ancient desert proverb is that God gives life to everyone, both good or bad.

Growing up, I can’t remember how many times I’d hear people pray/hope against rain because of some special event.  Here it is the exact opposite.  People of both Muslim and Christian background pray for rain.  If there is very little rain during the winter months Muslim Imam’s will even call special prayer meetings to beseech Allah for rain.  Christian churches will do the same. Last winter was one of those years.  There was all sorts of news about the drought and how reservoirs were far below their normal capacities.  Prayers were offered and eventually the rain came.

This winter has been different – the rain has been plentiful.  No special prayer meetings have been called (to my knowledge) but people are genuinely thankful that it’s been a wet winter.

However, the whole topic raises a question for me.  When both Muslims and Christians pray for rain and it does rain – whose prayers are being answered?  Some would say that both Christians and Muslims pray to the same God so, obviously, both are being answered.  Others would disagree with this and see believers in both camps as praying to different god’s and that it is likely that it is one group’s prayers over and against the other’s that is being answered.  Still other people would disparage the whole idea of any deity answering prayers for rain.  What do you think?

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3 Responses

  1. Hi there. Just stumbled upon your blog via the nanowrimo site (we are in the same group this year…elsewhere: Middle East). I have lived in Amman for 9 years and your praise (and criticism) of life here are much appreciated and respected. Keep on writing.

  2. Hey Larry – thanks or the comment. Surprised this post didn’t generate some more opinions. I would agree with you that much of the day-to-day natural phenomenon that we witness in nature has been set in motion by God originally and operates according to laws he designed. Like you, I also see no reason not to believe that God still intervenes from time-to-time in this “natural” order of things.

    Re. prayer – it’s kind of a mysterious thing, isn’t it? Especially when it comes down to the mechanics of it all. What I mean is – how do I know my prayers are going to God at all? It’s not like they are getting put in a supernatural SASE that is being hand delivered to the throne room of the Almighty by celestial post. So how do they get to him? Is something that we do as human beings that direct our prayers to God?

    Perhaps there is some sort of mental/spiritual direction taking place. In the case of someone who comes from an animistic background there may be times that they direct prayers to God and times they direct prayers towards their old ancestral gods by way of simply thinking about the appropriate diety.

    But it seems unlikely that God’s hearing of prayers is dependent on our directing them to him correctly. Nor does it seem likely that we need to have all of our theological ducks in a row in order for our prayers to get to him.

    All that to say that I do think that Muslims prayers are being directed towards God and that He hears them.

    OK, I actually have to run, but the question remains about the answering of prayers . . .

  3. Thanks for the insight, YET AGAIN! I never thought of that verse (rains on the righteous and unrighteous) in that perspective.

    As far as the “whose prayer gets answered?” I don’t believe the Muslim is being answered because I don’t believe he’s praying to anyone in actual existence. However, I know that my God loves all people in the most deep possible way, and that includes my Muslim brothers and sisters. Therefore, I believe both prayers are being heard and answered, even if they are not being both praying to the same entity. But I don’t think God’s ears are deaf to those who do not know Him.

    Not saying there’s biblical precedent for say, worshipers of Baal or something being rewarded for their fervency of prayers or anything, but in an instance of basic needs, I cannot imagine God, being a loving God being spiteful and saying “I won’t bless you at all, because of your belief.” In other words, God doesn’t penalize people for making a choice against Him, this side of eternity, that is.

    Also, I personally believe that while prayer works, and God is supernatural, that not every instance of natural phenomenon is the hand of God at direct work. (Mind you, all is created by Him and is set into motion by Him…just saying that every wind that blows isn’t God breathing on us.) 🙂

    I believe He is aware of everything and interested in it all, but doesn’t directly affect every little thing. In this instance, probably it’s the same El Nino thing that dropped snow all over North America in huge amounts. However, I am not a weatherman, so who knows… 🙂

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