Storms and prayer

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2019

It started as a tropical wave on Aug. 24 in the central Atlantic Ocean and became the fifth depression, fourth named storm, second hurricane, and first major hurricane of this hurricane season — Dorian! 

On Aug. 29 it reached Category 5 with 185-mile-per-hour winds while making landfall at Elbow Cay in the Bahamas. It was, for a short time, used as evidence for global warming, or climate change, or whatever it’s being called right now; but then someone found a similar hurricane on Labor Day in 1935.

Now, I really don’t know how to pray about a hurricane coming in our direction, but this time, my very specific prayer was that it not come ashore on the gulf coast south of us. And I did pray that it would stay offshore in the Atlantic, which it did until it touched the coast at Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. 

The ridge of high pressure taking Hurricane Dorian eastward collapsed on Sept. 2 causing it to stall, drop to a Category 2 storm, and turn northward on Sept. 3. After a brief return to Category 3, Dorian lost some of its intensity as it touched the coast at Cape Hatteras before moving on toward Nova Scotia. 

“But the Lord sent a strong wind on the sea, and the storm was so violent that the ship was in danger of breaking up. The sailors were terrified and cried out for help, each one to his own god. Then, in order to lessen the danger, they threw the cargo overboard. Meanwhile, Jonah had gone below and was lying in the ship’s hold, sound asleep. The captain found him there and said to him, ‘What are you doing asleep? Get up and pray to your god for help. Maybe he will feel sorry for us and spare our lives.’” (Jonah 1)

Several years ago after Florida State University won the National Championship in football, we went to a large gathering on the field in Doak Campbell Stadium. We took our two grandsons, and the football players were scattered around the field surrounded by large groups of people asking questions and gathering autographs. Suddenly we missed one of my grandsons and began looking for him, and we found him. He was surrounded by the Florida State cheerleaders!

I imagine heaven, at least in the early days, filled with lots of the same types of groups huddled around some of the great figures in Biblical history. We’ll be asking them questions and gathering autographs. 

Jonah is the story of a man (Why’d you run from God?), a ship (Did you know where you were going or did you simply take the first ship out of town?), a storm (How could you sleep during the storm?), a whale (What’s it like being swallowed by a whale?), and a huge city-state (Did you really hate the people who lived in Nineveh?).

Then the story turns, as the sailors’ prayers to their gods fail, and they wake Jonah, asking him to pray for them to his God. Maybe all the gods are not God?