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Column: I confess, I no longer pray for rain

Bales of hay sit in brown fields where rain is desperately needed in south central North Dakota. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service1 / 2
Bales of hay sit in brown fields where rain is desperately needed in south central North Dakota. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service2 / 2

"Pray for rain." I've heard that statement often in recent weeks. A hashtag, #prayforrain, has even been circulating. Growing up in and around agriculture, I've prayed for rain since I was a little girl. These days, living in the heart of the "red zone" on the weather maps, praying for rain seems to be our natural instinct.

I have a confession, and please don't judge me: I'm not praying for rain.

How many times do you tell someone you will pray for them and then it slips your mind? Years ago, I started a prayer list, just like my dad has always kept. If I say I'm going to pray about something or for someone, I write it down and then I will remember to follow through.

Rain is on the list. However, I've lived long enough to know, rain will come and rain will go. My childhood was spent praying for rain. During my teenage years and early 20s, we prayed for it to stop. I'm not a meteorologist. I know I can't forecast or certainly cannot control the weather.

Instead of praying for rain, I'm praying for people. I've found it to be more purposeful for me to pray for people instead of only focusing on moisture or not.

This summer, I've driven my kids and friends to basketball and volleyball camps in Bismarck. Across the 100-mile stretch through south central North Dakota, I see brown pastures and cows in need of grass. It seems trite to offer up a prayer for rain when I look at those dismal pastures.

My mind almost immediately thinks about the ranchers who own those herds and their families. I've prayed for them as well as those hauling cattle to the sale barn much earlier than usual because there's not enough grass or hay.

I have prayed for those in the tractors baling hay in places grass hasn't been cut for years, such as slough bottoms where water usually sits. I pray for those counting their hay inventory and wondering how they're going to provide for their cattle now, let alone through the winter. I pray for provisions, for needs to be met in ways I cannot see or know.

Instead of praying for rain, I pray for our retailers, implement dealers, small business owners and community dynamics that are driven by agriculture. When the dark clouds split and the rain misses us yet again, I pray for the overextended farmers who are stressed as well as for the ag lenders, insurance agents, sales people, social workers, teachers, schools and everyone else who feels and sees the impacts of a drought.

I see the worry in the eyes of moms sitting in the stands with me at baseball games and on the face of a dad standing behind me in the grocery store line. I hear from one of my dearest of friends as their family contemplates finding off-farm jobs to make ends meet this year.

Now that I'm focusing my prayers on the people rather than the need, I pay more attention to their faces and families. I know I can't control the rain, but I can control how I treat the people who are hurting, how I interact with them and how I lend my support.

Instead of only praying for rain, pray for the people. Show your support with kindness. Frequent the local businesses that need you to walk in and brighten their day.

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