I wish I could describe what it is like to be in Houston right now. Our feelings have gone from initial shock and thinking, “This isn’t happening; this isn’t really our city,” to, “This is happening; this is our city.” Over the past few days, feelings have transitioned from denial and shock, to sorrow, fear, and dread. Dread that the rains keep falling, the dams keep filling, the rivers keep overflowing, and homes keep flooding. And the thoughts that keep coming are, “What now? What next? How will our city ever recover from the rain?”
Every day in the dark hours of the morning as I listen to the rain fall on my roof, I, along with many others, lay awake, praying for specific friends, specific homes to stay dry, and for the Hand of the Lord to keep the waters at bay.
This morning I woke up with one thing on my mind – Daniel 9:1-19. Daniel 9 is a prayer the prophet Daniel prays for his city of Jerusalem, repenting for his people’s sin, while crying out for God’s great Hand of mercy to move on their behalf, not because of anything they deserve, but all because of who God is.
I’ve spent a long time this morning praying through this prayer, and what keeps arresting my attention is the phrase he uses in verse 3. As Daniel contemplates the destruction of his city Jerusalem and their needed rescue, he begins to give his attention to the Lord his God. He doesn’t give his attention to political leaders, the movers and shakers of his day. He doesn’t give his attention to local news and media. He doesn’t give his attention to well-meaning family and friends around him. He gives his attention to God: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”
That verse and Daniel’s prayer has gripped my heart and helped to focus my attention. It’s so easy to give my attention to the news right now, to texts and websites and emails. And it is important to give our attention to what our city’s leaders are saying. But it is more important is to give our attention to what God is saying through attitudes of humility, repentance, and fasting.
After reading and praying through Daniel 9, what I am not suggesting is that this flood and the damage and devastation to so many people’s homes and lives is directly because of sin. Righteous, good, godly people have lost everything in this flood. And people who have done evil, horrible things are sitting high and dry, myself included. It is not right to say that natural disasters are a direct cause of people’s sin. God uses suffering and disaster in the lives of righteous and unrighteous people alike to draw us to Himself and meet each of us exactly where we are. His heart is for all people to repent and be saved, not just some (see II Peter 3:9).
But when disaster strikes, it is always a good idea to turn our attention to God and put our full focus on what He says in His Word, for we know His Word to always be true and never fail. And Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 is powerful and effective and gives those of us going through great calamity a great template for how to cry out to God.
Daniel does not pass the buck of sin and shortcomings to just certain people in his city; he claims full ownership for the sin in his city and leans wholly on God’s mercy – not because of what he or anyone else has done but only because of who God’s Word and testimony say He is – faithful, merciful, loving, forgiving, and true.
And that is what I am suggesting we do. Lean on God’s mercy. Cry out to Him to hear us, to stop the rain, to keep the waters in check, and to help us rebuild, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. And commit our hearts to turn back to Him in whatever ways each of us has followed our own way and turned a deaf ear to Him.
So…here is my request: tomorrow, Wednesday, August 30th, would you join me in fasting and praying for the city of Houston, no matter where you are, using Daniel 9 as your guide? And pass along the request for prayer to those you know who will fast and pray alongside of you.
Pick one meal or all three meals tomorrow to fast from, and use one hour of a meal time to pray. I will be praying from the lunch hour from 12-1pm, so join with me then, or please pick another hour that works for you, whatever you have going on tomorrow.
And as you pray, please pray these specific things:
- Pray that our city would give attention to God. Pray that we would open His Word, read what He has to say, and give attention to it in our personal lives, our church’s lives, and in the life of our city.
- If you live in the city of Houston, please repent collectively for our sin in turning away from God and seeking our way instead of His way.
- Acknowledge the truth of who God is in your prayer – He is gracious and compassionate, forgiving, full of mercy, and cannot forget the covenant of love He has made with us (Exodus 34:6-7). He desires all to come to repentance and none to perish but for all to come to a saving knowledge of Him through Jesus Christ our Lord (II Peter 3:9).
- Pray and ask the Lord to see our need and hear our cries to stop the rain, to dry up our land, to hold back the Addicks Dam and Reservoir from breaking, to keep the Buffalo Bayou from overrunning anymore, to keep the Brazos River and other rivers, bayous, and creeks in our area from cresting and overflowing and to stay within their banks. Pray and ask Him for many people to be saved, for homes to stay dry, and for rescue workers to be wise and safe.
- Pray and ask the Lord to begin to help us in the process of recovery and rebuilding. Ask Him to mobilize crews of people to help, supplies and clothes and food to be provided, and for the people of God to radically and effectively show the love of God to a city in need.
- Finally, ask for the Lord to raise up “Daniels” for the city of Houston, men and women who walk closely with God as Daniel did. People who will think and act in wisdom and humility for the rebuilding of our city and who will administer all plans and recovery efforts in justice and peace.
I cannot say enough how thankful we are for your prayers. Thank you for loving us, calling us, and seeking the face of God on our behalf. We need to hear His Voice and come together to do His will now more than ever.
Praying with You,