Skip To Content

Evangelicals Are Praying To God For Protection From Harvey — And So Are Jews

As the historic Hurricane Harvey lingered over Houston this week like the biblical flood, Jewish and evangelical leaders found common ground in a moment of national crisis as both beseeched God to intercede on their behalf — literally.

Two major Orthodox religious organizations called on followers to support the flood victims in Houston. They could dotate money — and more than $200,000 has been raised — but just as importantly, they could contribute prayers.

“As Jews, we believe in the power of tefilla (prayer),” rabbis from the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America wrote in a joint statement, “we must also show those who are facing devastation in Houston that they have brethren from far and wide who care about them.”

In making the call for prayer, these Orthodox leaders joined a number of evangelical leaders who similarly implored God to halt the deadly storm or watch over those affected. Orthodox Jews are similar to white evangelical Protestants in their theology and prayer habits, according to the Pew Research Center.

Chelsen Vicari, an evangelical program director of the Institute on Religion and Democracy put out public prayer, calling on God to send the storm elsewhere.

“Divert this storm, Lord, back into the Gulf waters where it causes no harm, if it be your will,” Vicari wrote.

And Frank Amedia, an evangelical televangelist — who is also leading a group of “prayer warriors” in a campaign in support of Donald Trump — attempted to fend off Harvey with a prayer of his own.

“I call the intercessors and prayer warriors to declare and decree that the fury of this storm be dissipated,” Amedia said last week. “We declare that the apex be diverted, that the turbulent forces of the storm turn upon themselves and the four winds of heaven compress it, suppress and depress it!”

While the OU and the RCA encouraged visitors to pray, Jewish opinions on the efficacy of prayer vary. Some religious communities may believe that God has the power to literally intercede on their behalf, others liken prayer to meditation or a practice of mindfulness.

“Whether Jews believe prayer is efficacious depends on what they think of God,” said Lawrence A. Hoffman, professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College. In Orthodox circles, God may be seen as a supernatural king that intervenes in our lives following prayer — and if God does not act, it is the result of sin or fault of the man or woman praying.

To others, God is “more inscrutable,” and may still be seen as answering prayers, but not always when or how humans understand. Other religious Jews might take a more mystical view, Hoffman said, arguing that through prayer, Jews channel or commune with God, and themselves bring this force into the world through their actions.

“It is a huge spectrum,” Hoffman said.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.