This afternoon I had a call from one of our church members, she asked me if we could encourage people to write to the Prime Minister asking him to call for a national day of prayer concerning the COVID-10 pandemic. I am agreeing to join in with the request and I want to explain why here.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that I am probably a cautious and a little reluctant convert to the cause. There have been a few people calling for such an event for some time. My caution is that at first I was not sure of the rational -why exactly are we being called to prayer now? What is the aim? I also was concerned that some people had got locked into a belief that we could second guess God and describe this as a specific judgement and therefore we risked a mystical idea that if the nation repented certain sins then this would release blessing and end the virus. I have explained before the dangers of trying to second guess where God has nor revealed. Thirdly, there was the risk that we could think of the nation as some how Christian and therefore in some way equivalent to Israel in the OT. We are not.
However, here are some reasons as to why I am adding my name to the call to prayer. It starts with a little bit of information about my friend who asked me about this. The church member in question turned 90 years old this year. Last October she said goodbye to her husband, also in his 90s who went to be with the Lord. They had lived through much of the 20th century. She remembers German bombers over the West Midlands, rationing, the Cold War and much more. Together, they have loved our church for many years, serving God faithfully, being committed to prayer. Having faced all sorts of challenges and tragedies, she remains committed to the Gospel and to loving others, constantly seeking to help those in need. She remembers that in the Second World War, Winston Churchill and George VI called a day of prayer. She and others from her generation would observe a sharp contrast between an era when national crisis led to prayer and one where we are told to “eat out to help out.”
It is people in her generation and my parent’s generation who are bearing the brunt of COVID-19, those over 70, those in care homes. Many have been incredibly unwell. The majority of deaths have been from this age group. Those who died did so alone whilst husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and close friends never got the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones. We have had one funeral during this time, others have been hit harder. Instead of a packed church building with people coming from near and far, we were limited to a few close family members at the grace-side. This generation have stood on balconies and doorsteps to applaud with us. It is time to do something that shows that we stand with them in a way that they will appreciate.
However, this is not about mere sentiment. It is about prayer being something that matters. By this I do not mean that we encourage the nation in mysticism or superstition. However, as Christians we believe that there is a God who hears and answers prayer. Whilst I do not believe that the virus is a specific judgement, I do believe that God can use this time to draw people away from their reliance on human achievements and teach us to turn to him and cling to him. It is about letting people know that there is a God who created them. This is the God who is love. It’s about recognising that all the mess in this world, not just coronavirus but every disease and disaster, every war and cruel oppression is there because of sin.
As Christians we believe that God so loved the world that he sent Jesus as saviour, to rescue us from the mess that we have brought on ourselves, to offer forgiveness for sin, to bear the penalty for sin that we deserve in his death on the cross.
Where do we start to respond to this? During this time of coronavirus, we can start by learning to pray, learning to talk to God.
Here are some simple prayers to help you start.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour.
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father, We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
Lord God, Creator and sustainer of the universe.we thank you for your goodness and love. We turn to you in the midst of this pandemic for your help. Thank you that you work all things together for the good of those who love you. Thank you for the way you have protected and looked after us during this crisis. Thank you for your provision of health care workers and for those seeking to find a vaccine for the virus. We pray that you will help them and give them great skill and wisdom to trat patients and to find a cure. We pray that you would keep our frontline workers safe from the virus.
We pray that you would give our leaders and government wisdom at this time to guide us through the crisis. We pray particularly for Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary and Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition. We pray that you would help them to act wisely and in the interests of all.
We pray that you would bring healing for those who are sick. We pray that the virus would abate soon. We pray most of all that you would teach us to learn to trust you through this storm. We thank you that we can learn not to fear the one who has power to kill the body because we can trust in the one who is Lord over life, death and eternity.
We pray this in the name of the Son and through the power of the Holy Spirit, for your glory