When the Global pandemic hit, there were many people calling for national days of prayer and fasting. Specifically, there were people insisting that the pandemic was a sign of God’s judgement on our land and on our churches and so we needed to repent.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, there was an almost spontaneous outbreak of prayer as we were shocked by the brutality of the invasion and wanted to stand with our brothers and sisters who were experiencing extreme danger and suffering.
Has anyone else noticed that there doesn’t seem to be the same response to the coming fuel crisis. Why is that?
Now, I’m not big into calling for national days of prayer. I think that misunderstands the nature of the nation. Further, I was unconvinced by the insistence that COVID was a specific judgement that required repentance. Unless God’s revelation (i.e. Scripture) explicitly links events with judgement for particular sin then I don’t think we have warrant to. Though it is fascinating how we tend to see plagues and natural disasters as possible signs of judgement but don’t consider the possibility that a war or an economic crisis might be. Whilst I don’t think there are specific judgements, I do believe that natural disasters, disease and pandemic, economic shocks such as recessions or hyper inflation, poverty more generally and war are all consequences of living in a fallen world under judgement for sin.
So, why isn’t there the urgency now. Perhaps it is because the Tsunami still seems someway off. It hasn’t really hit the shore yet. That will come in the winter months if bills continue to double and e face a cold winter. Maybe it’s that we still don’t quite believe that the crisis will be that bad. Maybe we are still trusting in our governments to judge. Maybe some are feeling despondent. They attempted to go with the calls to pray and repent and the pandemic wasn’t miraculously turned back. Does prayer really work? If the latter, then the risk there is that we’ve misunderstood how prayer works. This is not to say that God could not turn back a pandemic but remember that we are not guaranteed an escape from suffering. Our prayers for God to sustain us and for us to be kept close to him, our prayers for Gospel fruit during the pandemic and indeed prayers that we would be shielded from the worst possible consequences were to my mind answered.
I want to suggest that if you were calling for special prayer during the pandemic that you should be calling for prayer now.
But, whilst again, I’m not one for national days of prayer (how can we expect Liz Truss or Keir Starmer to lead an unbelieving nation -and why should we- in this?), I do believe that the church should be giving attention to pray for this.
We should pray because we need to be reminded of our fallibility and frailness. Human governments can no more turn back an economic Tsunami than they can control a virus. We will want to pray because we need to be reminded of our total dependence on God. We should pray because our hearts are moved. There is a high likelihood that many people we love and care about will suffer horribly. We may well also want to consider the possibility that rising fuel and energy prices may be an even greater risk to our public gatherings than COVID lockdowns.
We will pray, not because this is a specific judgement but because it is evidence that we live in a fallen world and so we will pray prayers of lament and repentance. We may even want to pray that God would act to turn back this crisis. We should pray that God will equip us not just survive the crisis but thrive in it, learning to be holy and not to be anxious about anything. We will pray that God will enable us to hold out the offer of hope found in the Gospel and that he would use it to bring people to trust in him.