The governor of Georgia made national headlines last November for convening a meeting at which he led citizens in praying for rain. Some rain fell the next day, which scoffers said had been predicted anyway; then an inch or more fell the following week. Was it divine intervention? Believers opined it might have been; in any case they praised God for it. (Rain-drenched folks elsewhere would gladly have shared their over-oversupply!)
In 1654 England suffered an even more severe and widespread drought. Oliver Cromwell, then ruler of England, issued a proclamation for a day of fasting, which moved a harassed but plucky Quaker leader to post this colorful rejoinder, “A Warning from the Lord to all such as hang down the head for a day!” If Cromwell would own God’s truth and practice justice, instead of piously calling for a ritual fast, declared George Fox, rain would come. “The drought was a sign unto them of their barrenness of the water of life,” he admonished. Maybe he had this verse in mind: “Ask the LORD for rain. . .He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone” (Zech. 10: 1 TNIV).
Well, during that drought season some two to three thousand Friends held a “General Meeting” at Shrewsbury, during which time rain fell in such torrents they had to slosh about in mud! So word got out among people that when Fox and ministry team moved into drought-stricken areas, rain fell. (Journal, Nickalls ed., Cambridge,1952, pp. 292ff). It reminds us of Elijah who prayed, “and the heavens gave rain, and earth produced its crops” (See James 5:17-18 TNIV).
People in our scientific culture find it harder to accept divine intervention of this sort than do folks in less secularized cultures. We do well to ponder Fox’s words to Cromwell, not just about lack of rain, but whatever in nature or society signifies “a barrenness of the water of life.” (Some areas of our culture are really parched!)
Three years after this drought Fox and his friends evangelized Wales, among other places they preached at Dolgelly, where in 1992, with son Lloyd and his wife, we worshiped with local Friends. We envisioned our Welsh ancestors hearing about a living faith in Christ that nourished more than forests and cropland. They heard the Spirit and the faithful church (through Fox and friends) say: “Let those who are thirsty come; and let all who wish take the free gift of the water of life” (Rev. 22 17 TNIV).
And they came! And we came! And you came! Through your ministry in 2008 may many thirsty ones in your communities come to God and receive the water of life.
Peace and Joy!
Arthur O. Roberts