Abba Moses said, “When we consider that He numbers the raindrops, the sand of the sea and the stars of heaven, we are amazed.”1
It’s been a rainy fall.
The storm clouds have stomped about in the dark attic of the sky. The rain has uncoiled with a shake. We’ve squished our way into this new season, the soggy clockwork of autumn.
Sometimes I pray about the weather, asking God to make some adjustments, but it’s hard to know what to ask for. I’m inclined to give thanks for every drop, but I also know that standing corn isn’t going to harvest itself. Other times I just watch the rain fall and adore the God who made it. I lean against the back doorway of our garage, tucked almost away under the awning, and watch it come down. I can hear my rain barrel gulping water as it fills. It makes me feel rich.
Maybe we need to make this move in more of our prayers, going from asking to adoring. Jesus launches his model prayer with adoration–hallowed be thy name–which tells us something about the priority of adoration. Prayer isn’t just petition (gimme, gimme, gimme). It’s also intercession and thanksgiving. It’s adoration for the God of the universe. Can we learn to adore more and ask less? I think doing so would start to center us in God’s mercy.
When Abba Moses, a man who journeyed into the deserts of Egypt in the fourth century to live a life of unhindered prayer, talked about the rain, he didn’t focus on how prayer might allow us to control it. Abba Moses talked about being amazed by the rain. Our Father numbers the drops. I imagine Abba Moses leaning against the doorway of his craggy cave, watching the rain come down and feeling rich in God’s mercy, amazed.
But “numbering” is also a sign of intimate knowledge. It’s what parents do with their newborns; they count their fingers, number their toes. God numbers the hairs of our head (Matt. 10:30). This isn’t quantifiable knowledge. It’s relational, the mathematics of love. In God’s great love of creation and mercy toward humankind, he numbers the raindrops–both infinitely and intimately knowing them.
Perhaps our response in prayer ought to reflect this dual sense of numbering. We have to get beyond longing for control–trying to number God, to quantify and control God’s blessing. We need adoration too–coming to know and deeply love God. Adoration leads us to mercy, to the God who sends rain on the just and the unjust. And mercy goes beyond what we can know and control. Mercy seeps into our amazed souls.
1 In the Philokalia, p.97.