Lord, have mercy on your people, have mercy on us, and grant us rain. Oh, God, let rain fall on this land of Georgia.
Those prostrate, beseeching words were spoken this morning by Methodist minister Gil Watson on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, in Atlanta.
More than 250 people attended the outdoor prayer session, which was convened by Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, in a desperate appeal for rain.
As reported by U.S. News earlier this fall, Georgia, along with much of the Southeast, is mired in a drought of record proportions that among other possible problems has raised the specter of a water shortage by year's end.
In the absence of significant progress or promising new ideas by the state governments — a deal among Georgia, Florida, and Alabama to reduce to the water flow from one of the region's main reservoirs unraveled last week when Florida unexpectedly reneged — politicians have turned to religion for answers and solace. Such is the state of the crisis (and, to some disgruntled observers, the ineffectuality of local leaders).
Perdue, in a statement following the public prayer session, said that the drought was an effort by God to "get our attention."
Not everyone in the South endorses Perdue's Bible belt adaptation and subsequent invocation of the classic deus ex machina. More than 20 protesters attempted to disrupt the prayer service, carrying signs and shouting slogans. One sign read "Pray on the Church Steps, not the Capitol Steps."