JOHN McCLEAN writes that prayer is a great way to love our world and care for friends.
If you are like me, you have probably felt a bit helpless in the last few weeks. You may be feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the current pandemic, by the constant disturbing news and the terrifying predictions. On top of all this, while the best response to this crisis for most of us is to stay at home, out of the way, this frustrates us – our natural activism makes us want to do something.
The one thing all Christians can do is pray. That is the great contribution of the church to our world. There are other things we can do, but prayer is the first and basic service. God invites us to participate in his work by relying on him and calling on him to act according to his character and to keep his promises. Prayer is the way in which we can love our world, care for our friends, find comfort and pursue God’s glory. The next few weeks and months will be a great time to pray.
Here are some thoughts about the kind of things to pray.
Pray big prayers for God’s mercy on our world, that he would slow the spread of the virus, provide treatments and vaccines quickly, and enable the nations of the world to work in harmony. Ask God to bring many people to himself and to bring himself glory in the midst of this crisis. Pray for spiritual renewal in nations around the world. We do not understand why God allows events like this to happen, but we do know that he oversees them and uses them. Ask him to bring good, and blessing, out of days of darkness.
Follow the instructions of 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Ask for, and give thanks for, all people, especially for those in authority.
Pray specifically for national and state leaders, especially for our Prime Minister Scott Morrison, our Premier Gladys Berejiklian (left) and the other State Premiers, for Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy and NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant, and all those who work with them and advise them. Thank God for each one of them and for the gifts and commitment he has given them. Ask the Lord to give them strength, grace and wisdom; to enable them to work effectively and sleep well. Ask him to grant them the capacity to listen well to others, and the insight to make clear decisions. Thank God for the political stability we enjoy in Australia; ask him to preserve that and to provide stability in other nations as well.
Thank God for medical staff — the doctors, nurses, allied health staff, cleaners and porters in our hospitals and medical practices. All these people will be facing huge loads over the next weeks. Praise him for the skills and wisdom they have and their readiness to serve the community. Ask for their protection from disease, and for perseverance. Ask that the equipment they will need will be available. Pray for Christian hospital chaplains as they represent Christ and speak the gospel to patients and staff.
Pray for your own church and other churches in Australia and around the world. Ask God to sustain pastors and elders as they deal with the complexity of ministry to people under pressure in a situation which they have never anticipated. Pray that churches will continue to be salt and light in our communities. Ask God to show us ways to love each other well and to serve others and to proclaim Christ.
I’ve contacted friends in other parts of the world to ask what I can pray for them, their churches and their nations. It’s a great time to do that.
Pray for those who have lost their jobs, and for those who have to wind back businesses and lay off staff. Thank God for the protection the government has provided in Australia and pray that it would be administered well. Ask God to make his people and the whole community generous. Pray for protection of the global economy, not for our comfort, but for the livelihood of billions of other people.
Pray for peace among brothers and sisters in Christ, in churches and across the Christian community. You do not have to look very far to see squabbles and arguments — pray that we might have patience with each other and sympathy for those who are anxious and stressed.
Pray for yourself and your own family and friends. Pray for health and protection and peace. Even more, pray that you might grow in Christ through a difficult season. Ask God to produce in you the pattern of Romans 5: suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, a hope which is not put to shame.
Praise God for his constancy which is the basis of our security. Praise him that he is always true, merciful and loving, and ask that you might be able to know his presence and rest in him in difficult times.
There is something to learn from the prayers of God’s people during past crises. In 1551 England faced an epidemic of the mysterious sweating sickness which led Thomas Cranmer (left) to include in the Book of Common Prayer, a prayer in the time of common plague or sickness. It recognises God’s sovereign direction of such sickness, appeals to his mercy and expresses our reliance on him for protection and healing. It seems immediately relevant to our situation and worth using.
O Almighty God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest: Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.