There is a powerful story in I Kings 17-19 about a godly prophet named Elijah and a spiritually weak king, Ahab, married to a pagan queen, Jezebel. Three years of drought have hit the land, causing a severe famine. Elijah challenges Jezebel’s 450 prophets of Baal to a contest: Each side will prepare an identical offering of a sacrificed bull. “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire – he is God.”
Elijah and his God prevails, and after the fiery climax, Elijah prays for rain. He tells Ahab to hurry home: “Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.”
There are plenty of other sacred Scriptures from various faith traditions, urging the faithful to pray for rain and other blessings. Perhaps you’ve seen the blue-and-white signs popping up in town that read, “Pray for rain. I Thessalonians 5:17.” That verse says simply, “Pray without ceasing.”
The signs began appearing in mid-January, when the skies were still blue and when you could drive almost to Me-Wuk without seeing snow. They were the work of Dwaine Heinrich, a Modesto crop consultant who also grows almonds on land his great-grandfather farmed.
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Heinrich and his wife, Peggy, were visiting their son’s family in Wichita Falls, Texas, before Christmas. That part of Texas has been hit extra hard with a major drought. “It’s as dry back there now as it was in the Dust Bowl,” Heinrich said.
What caught Heinrich’s eyes were the signs.
“They were everywhere,” he said. “They were in people’s yards and there would be businesses all over town with big banners that said, ‘Pray for Rain.’ I thought that was really cool.”
He brought a sign back and put it in front of his home. “So every time I pull into my driveway, I’m reminded to pray,” he said.
Then God gave him an idea, he said: “I wondered, why can’t we do that in Modesto? I just had a vision to pepper Modesto with these signs. It’s kind of a reminder to talk to the one who makes the rain and the one who withholds the rain. He’s certainly the one who can end our drought.”
So he ordered 300 signs at about $8 each and began distributing them – at a City Council meeting, a farm meeting, at a couple of churches, to neighbors and friends.
“I just pass them out freely,” he said. After giving out the first 300, he ordered an additional 200. He’s not looking for reimbursement or publicity. “This isn’t about me,” he said.
What it is about, he emphasized, is telling God our needs and watching for his response.
“Absolutely, I believe God answers our prayers, and he promises us good things when we honor him and acknowledge him,” Heinrich said. “I believe he’s answering our prayers. We’ve had a little rain so far, and we’re in dire need of a lot more. He certainly holds the whole situation in his hands.”