Praying for Rain

The year was 1824 and we had moved from Tennessee to the foothills in Alabama after our crops in Tennessee had been gathered in. I had bought 20 acres of land in the valley below the mountain plateau I first crossed with General Jackson in 1812.

When we were settling into the new homestead, we immediately began cutting logs for a small cabin. We figured the land on the downside of the mountain would be the richest ground. So that’s where we cut the first trees for our house, gaining logs, and clearing a cornfield at the same time.

After the cabin was finished enough to keep us dry and warm, we began to prepare our field for corn. The younger boys were put to work clearing out the brush. The girls hauled the sandstone rocks out to a pile. Me and the older boys began to girdle the remaining big trees. This would kill them without the hard work of felling them. This was helpful in several ways as it would provide standing dead wood for firewood and shingle shakes. The standing dead let us plant crops around them without taking the water and soil from the corn.

Right before Easter we plowed the new ground. It was hard work with the roots and rocks. Our team of mules worked up a lather even on cool mornings. Finally, just after Easter Sunday, we planted the corn in the new ground. We got a good stand in a week. After it was a half-a-foot tall, we chopped out the corn leaving a stalk in each length of a hoe handle. We thanked God when we saw a crop growing on our new land among the standing dead timber.

We kept it plowed and hoed. It had nubbins of two ears on each stalk. On into summer, just as it started silking and tasseling the rains stopped. It was when we needed water the most on the crop. Stalks and nubbins won’t get a family through the winter. We depended on corn for our stock and ground meal for hungry bellies.

One day I looked upward for the hope of a rain cloud. It was a clear blue sky with not even enough of a cloud to mention. The long leaves on the corn began to twist for lack of water. It looked poorly for us, especially our first year on the land.

That night I gathered the family for prayer. “Younguns and Ferobe, we are going to pray and ask God for rain. ‘Less we get some rain, the corn won’t be worth pickin. ‘Less we have corn, we’ll have to live on chestnuts and white oak acorns this winter.”

They knew it was serious as I was usually cheerful after supper. We all got down on our knees and began to pray. I prayed, “Lord, we are depending on You. We have cleared the land as best a man can in a space of a winter. My family has worked from daylight to dark. We have cut brush, piled rocks, plowed, planted, hoed, and kept the coons out of the young corn. If you don’t help us with rain, our crop is gone. We’ll have to scratch to stay alive through the winter. We beg you for mercy. Lord, we need rain. Would you please send a downpour like in Elijah’s day so our corn will fill to a full ear. We’ll be sure to thank You when it’s done. In the name of our Lord Jesus, we pray. Amen!”

I rose from my knees with tears wetting my face. Elizabeth being fifteen and holding her infant sister Rachael, said to me, “Papa is God going to send us some rain? I don’t want to eat white oak acorns this winter.”

I told her, “Honey, that’s what we prayed for, now we’ll just have to believe. It’s all in God’s hands now. Don’t you worry, in my forty something years, I’ve had small helpings a few times but I’ve never begged bread.”

Two nights later, right about midnight, I woke from a dead sleep by thunder over the mountain by southwest. By daylight, it was raining so hard you could hardly hear the baby crying. Elizabeth came down from the loft with her hair a tangled mess, she said, “Papa, Jesus sent us rain just like we prayed.”

I said, “Yes, Honey, I’m so thankful that God has sent us rain. You remember this answered prayer, there’ll be another day when you’ll have to pray for rain. We live in a hard world.”

When we bowed our heads at the table before eating biscuits and salt pork, we were sure to thank God for His mercy and his great outpouring of hope in the form of rain. My heart was lifted high for a good crop of corn. God is good.

"Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17 KJV).

William Whitt, 1824 DeKalb County, Alabama [now Etowah County]

[Historical fiction of my own imagination based on the life of my great-great-great grandfather, William Whitt who settled just a few miles from where I lay my head. I pray to the same God who sends rain when we pray. Papa William left us a Christian pioneer heritage; I hope to pass it on.]

Yours on the Journey,

Harry L. Whitt

10 Replies to “Praying for Rain”

  1. Hard times are now definitely required to reawaken morality in the lives of the controlling minority in the United States. I grew up experiencing hard times and they were motivating. So, teach us, Lord, through the coming tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

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