Publication:Johnson City Press; Date:Aug 25, 2007; Section:Today; Page Number:6A

Christian singer urges prayers for rain


    NASHVILLE — Christian singer Michael W. Smith is urging people to fast and pray for relief from the hot, dry and fatal weather parching Tennessee.

    “I just think to not include God in the process is a big mistake,” Smith said Friday, a day after taping a public service spot for radio stations. “Maybe he is trying to tell us something. I don’t have the answer, and I’m not saying I do.”

    On Friday, Nashville recorded its 15th day of 100 degrees or above this month, the most in any month for the city.

    Other areas of the state also are enduring the extreme temperatures. Hot weather has been cited in 13 deaths in Shelby County and one in Wilson County.

    Smith said he’s most concerned about farmers and people who rely on wells for their water.

    “Right here in this city, it’s not really affecting us. We can still go out and eat at a restaurant and take a shower. But it’s not that way for most of this state, it’s a completely different story,” Smith said.

    To a small degree, he’s experienced it firsthand. Smith says he’ll have to sell about 75 head of cattle on his farm near Nashville because of the lack of hay and water to keep them over the winter.

    “It’s not a livelihood for me. So it’s not that big of a deal for me, but it is a big deal for others,” he said.

    Smith’s call for action comes directly from the Bible, which he says contains many examples of drought, especially the Old Testament.

    “What people did to usher in some rain, most of the time they fasted and prayed,” he said.

    The singer, who crossed over to the pop charts in the ’90s with hits including “Place in This World,” would like to see church congregations dedicate part of their service Sunday to asking God for rain.

    People also could pray or fast on their own for as long as they feel moved, he said.

    Despite the hardship caused by the drought, Smith believes some good will come of it.

    “It seems like anytime you have a tragedy, at least in my book, it never fails that it will turn into good to some degree,” he said. “But there is a lot of mystery about why bad things happen to people.”

    Smith isn’t alone in his call for spiritual help. On Friday, The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Discipleship, a group that provides resources and services to the denomination’s church leaders, posted “A Prayer in a Time of Drought” on its Web site:

    The Web site receives about 3 million hits a month, according to the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, the board’s director of worship resources.

    The prayer bemoans the brittle grass and trees and goes on to addresses the drought’s affect on animals, farmers and the homeless. It pleads for gentle rain rather than torrential downpours that flood streets and homes.

    Burton-Edwards described prayers of this nature as appeals for help and understanding in times of crises: “What do we do here, God? We don’t know. It’s too big for us to figure out.”