Thousands of Christians all across the nation will be praying for drought-breaking rains this Sunday, July 1, in response to a call by civic leaders in Queensland.
As light rain fell across southern and central Queensland, the call has gone out for Australians to pray for widespread rain to bring relief to farmers and supporting business who are battling drought, at great cost to their mental health and welfare.
Below average autumn rainfall has left areas of Queensland, NSW, northwest Victoria and eastern south Australia in significant drought, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, which is forecasting a 50 per cent chance of an El Nino spring, meaning a dryer than usual rainfall pattern in large parts of eastern Australia.
“We need to help our residents understand where our food and fibre is produced.” – Paul Antonio
A Day of Prayer for Rain began as a suggestion by Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio during his monthly meeting with five church leaders in the city, which is part of the Darling Downs region that has not had good soaking rains since last October.
“We need to help our residents understand where our food and fibre is produced and how hard our primary producers and supporting businesses work to sustain us all year round,” Antonio said in a statement.
When Antonio took the idea to a meeting of the Darling Downs and South West Queensland Council of Mayors in drought-stricken Charleville last week, the 11 mayors unanimously passed a motion calling for the Day of Prayer for Rain.
“I think it’s a blessing from God because most are not outwardly Christian so it’s wonderful,” commented Ian Shelton, of Toowoomba City Church, who is one of the five pastors who meet the Toowoomba Mayor regularly.
He and other members of the Christian Leaders Network and Toowoomba Ministers Association then sent out an urgent call for churches in the region to set aside time during their Sunday services to pray for drought-breaking rains.
The initiative rapidly gained momentum, spreading from the regional to the national and even international level.
The Wollongong-based National Day of Prayer and Fasting Co-ordinators sent out an appeal for prayer to their 10,000 members across the country. Meanwhile, a group of pastors in Whanganui, Toowoomba’s Sister City in New Zealand, committed to pray for rain this Sunday.
Providentially, since the 11 mayors backed the call for prayer, some rain has fallen on the region, with more forecast next week, but Andrew Hoey, senior minister at Rangeville Community Church, points out that a great deal more is needed.
“We’re praying that God would intervene and bring drought-breaking rain.” – Andrew Hoey
“We’ve had 7mm, which shows that it hasn’t forgotten how to rain completely,” he said today.
“The thing that is required is not just a good fall now; it requires good soaking rain now and followed up by further spells of good soaking rain because the soil is now just so dry that it will take quite a lot to replenish and that for crops that do get planted for them to be sustained by ongoing rainfall.”
Hoey, who is also one of the five pastors who consult the Toowoomba mayor, hailed the initiative as “a wonderful level of engagement between civic leaders and their belief that there is a very important role that the church has to play – and that is in praying.”
“We believe that God is a God of miracles and so, while the forecast is not for a large quantity of rain, we’re praying that God would intervene and bring drought-breaking rain. We’re praying for that and believing for it,” he said.
“There’s a huge mental health impact on farmers and then that flows across into the community.” – Andrew Hoey
“Scriptures are full of stories where it says when we come before God and when we pray, when we acknowledge these things we have done that are wrong, that the Lord blesses the land, and certainly we’re praying as we come before him in heartfelt prayer that he blesses the land with the rain that’s needed.”
He said the drought was having a dramatic effect on the lives of farmers and their families.
“Each day they wake up and see that yet again they’re having to feed cattle, feed livestock, buying the hay which then becomes expensive, and that is a continual grind of the work of keeping their animals alive but putting out a lot of money to do that,” he said.
“And there’s a huge mental health impact on farmers and then that flows across into the community because the farmers don’t have resources to spend in the local economy, so that affects a lot of agricultural-based industries.
“The feedback I hear is that there is an increase in suicides among farmers and it certainly is a very difficult season when there’s sustained drought and some find that is the option they’re choosing to take, which is sad.”