This Is What Your Prayers Did
On July 23, 2018 the Carr Fire started outside of our town in Redding, California in Wiskeytown. What started as a spark from the rim of a flat tire quickly grew into a wild fire that engulfed the region and spread towards the city. In about 36 hours the fire had spread to tens of thousands of acres and was threatening to engulf the whole city. People described it as Armageddon as the streets were in gridlock and cars were jumping the curb to drive down the side walk, at least two cars crashing into police trying to escape. One friend of mine described the terror “you could see the fire in your rear view mirror. The first was moving faster towards you than the traffic in front of you was moving. It was horrific.” Thousands evacuated the city, thousands more around the globe were praying for the fires to stop and the city to be saved.
But the fire seemed to continue to advance.
National Guard and fire fighters gave up fighting the first and instead diverted all of their attention to evacuating people because the fire was out of control. They pulled back and set up a parameter along the interstate (middle of the city). They planned to sacrifice the west part of the city in order to save the east side. It’s either lose half the city or lose all of the city.
People continued to pray.
I was shocked. How can this many people be praying and God be this good and the fires keep coming? Something has to be changing now but I don’t know why it isn’t. I wasn’t questioning God, I was questioning the outcome and how nothing was changing. I was baffled.
Late Friday night/early Saturday morning the winds shifted and the fire that was charging towards the city turned and began growing away.
Roughly 37 days, 229,651 acres, and $1.659 billion in damages later, the fire was completely contained and put out. Why did it take so long? How did it grow this big?
A month or so later, I drove through Wiskeytown and was shocked at what I saw.
I saw houses untouched. I saw green. I saw signs standing. I saw roads clear. I saw pockets completely secure.
I expected the utter demolition of everything. Just black burnt remnants of life. Yes, there were houses that were gone. Yes, there were wide open fields that took the place of a forest. But I was amazed at the amount of life that had been preserved. A building on one side of the driveway was gone, but the house on the other side was untouched. Fields burnt to a crisp, yet a house with siding unmelted stood in the middle of it. Life was saved and houses were preserved. “This is what your prayers did” I felt God say. “Your prayers saved these houses. They weren’t waisted or ignored, they held these out.”
I was in awe. I was amazed at how impossible this situation seemed to be. Everything should have been gone, but yet God kept these houses out. He kept them safe in the midst of the fires. What about all of the others that burnt? I don’t know. I don’t want to to make a theology based out of what didn’t happen, but I do see in this moment what God did. Our prayers wrapped around so many and kept them standing.
If you were one of the ones who prayed for us during that time, thank you. Thank you for praying. Thank you for fighting for our city against destruction. Thank you for knowing God wasn’t behind it but He was in front of it fighting it and saving so many lives in the process. Thank you for knowing prayers are powerful and they are worth every breath we give. It’s not because they are magic words but because they are aligned with the heart of the Father who eagerly desires to be let in and fulfill them. These prayers invite Him in to protect, restore, and build our community and our lives. This is what your prayers do.