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the Rev. Matthew R. St. John, Published May 04 2013

Letter: What if it were prayer?

By the time you read this, it will have been well publicized that the Red River crested slightly above 33 feet sometime Wednesday, far short of the predictions initially coming out of the National Weather Service. I understand that some in our community are being critical of the National Weather Service; their early projections being so seemingly off the mark. I can only imagine that the folks at the weather service work in good faith to evaluate the data they have before them, make reasonable projections based upon the data and then communicate those findings as thoughtfully as possible. I would expect they know the consequences of their pronouncements as well as anyone, for good or not.

But what if they were much more on target than any of us appreciate? What if the data demonstrated for no end of good reasons that our illustrious river would in fact crest much higher than 33.32 feet? What if the reason the Red River did not reach the initial projections was not because the weather service missed the mark but because men and women and boys and girls throughout our community prayed?

Following the infamous 2009 flood, people from our community gathered at the Fargo Theatre for an evening of praise and celebration. Together we worshipped the one true God, thanking him for protecting our city and helping us make it through a tough ordeal. In 2010 and 2011, many of those same people, representing a variety of churches from across our community, came together before the respective floods to pray in the name of Jesus for God’s mercy. Both floods fell short of the projections.

This year churches rallied again. I know our own church, Bethel Church, set aside an evening to pray that God would mitigate the flooding. Other churches did the same. Once again the flood fell short of the projection.

I know some easily exclaim our area meteorologists were overzealous, they did not properly evaluate the data, Mother Nature does what she wants sometimes, etc. But who better than God can manage and manipulate the weather patterns and the moisture in our soils?

He may relish foiling our plans and processes just to remind us that there is something – more accurately, someone – transcendent out there that merits our full attention. And besides, he makes clear in the ancient book, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

We must not dismiss his mercy and grace. Therefore, we must praise his great name.


St. John is senior pastor at Bethel Church in Fargo.