We are probably all sick of hearing about coronavirus. Sadly, we will be hearing about it for many months more. (I enjoyed a recent cartoon showing a couple watching the news on television, with the word ‘Coronavirus’ spread across the screen. The caption read, “Gosh I miss Brexit!”.) So I hope my piece this month doesn’t produce a groan.
I want to suggest three ways we can pray at this time—for ourselves, for our church, for our nation and world.
Pray for yourself
When Jesus was entering his time of severest testing in the Garden of Gethsemane he urged his disciples to ‘pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ That is a good prayer for this time. We will easily be tempted into fear or despair. We may be tempted to doubt God. We may be tempted to sheer selfishness—witness the stockpiling. Many of us will be desperately worried for ourselves and for our children and families. Do pray for yourself that you will come through this time without falling. And for our encouragement, do note that before speaking these words, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail.’ Pray for yourself, but how wonderful to know that, before we do, Jesus has already prayed for us.
Pray for your church
This is unlike anything we have ever experienced. There are people I have just got to know in our church—maybe only even met them once or twice—and now I may not see them again for many weeks. It’s awful! The very meaning of the word ‘church’ is ‘gathering’. How can we possibly be church if we can’t gather? Well, of course, the Lord’s arm is not too short that he cannot save (Isaiah 59:1) and Jesus is quite able to build his church in any and every circumstance. If the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, neither can this virus. So I am praying that the Lord will use this time to build his church as never before. I am praying that people will be converted and joined to his people while we are still physically cut off from one another. How amazing it would be to look back on this sad time and see what wonders he has done.
Pray for our unbelieving world
There is a phrase in the book of Revelation that haunts me. It comes four times (with slight variations):
The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands . . . Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts . . . They cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him . . . They cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. (Revelation 9:20, 9:21, 16:9, 16:11)
Horrible plagues came upon the earth, but they refused to repent. As we so well know, people are content to ignore God completely when things are going well for them, but then they blame him or hate him (‘they cursed the God of heaven’) when things are tough. What they will not do, is repent, turn to God and be saved.
But some do and some will. So please pray for our unbelieving world. We have so convinced ourselves that we are in control, we can do anything, life will always get better, we are ‘the captains of our souls’, and in the twinkling of an eye that self-deception has been completely overturned. Surely, if ever, here was a reason and a time to repent. How wonderful of the Lord used this time not only to build his church, but to save his world.
Your brother in Christ