Practicing Prayer During the Coronavirus Crisis
Almost everyone is working from home, schools are closed, nearly everything is shut down, sporting events are canceled, events and gatherings are postponed, and now a statewide curfew of 8PM is in place (which is earlier than what we would impose on teens), so we should have more time to pray than ever. Which is great because what we as individuals, as families, as communities, as countries need right now is prayer. But the question is: Are we actually using this time to pray? Or are we using it to read more articles and watch more videos on the coronavirus?
Even in the midst of the chaos of the coronavirus, we are still called to be a people of prayer. E.M. Bounds, a 19th century pastor who famously wrote on prayer, said, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Ghost can use—people of prayer, people mighty in prayer” (Classic Collection on Prayer, 584). It was true back in the late 1800’s and it is still true today: We need men and women who are mighty in prayer.
In this post, I am going to suggest just three (of the many) reasons why we pray. And then I will give nineteen specifics requests we can actually pray for during this COVID-19 viral outbreak.
Why We Pray
Several posts can be written on why we pray, but I will venture to briefly describe just three of those reasons here. Namely, we pray because: (1) it glorifies God; (2) it shows our dependence on Him; and (3) prayer changes things.
1. Prayer Glorifies God
First, and perhaps foremost, we pray because we glorify God when we do it. Jesus says to His disciples, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). The purpose of prayer—that is, why we ask for things in Jesus’s name—is that God would be glorified. God is glorified as the One who provides and supplies the answer to our prayers.
Additionally, Jesus indicates that the content of our prayers ought to glorify God. Jesus famously teaches His disciples how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. He begins in verse 9 by saying, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name.’” The word “hallowed” is not often used in our everyday vernacular anymore, but it means “blessed,” “holy,” or “revered.” And so the phrase “hallowed be your name” is a plea to “let your name be kept holy.” Or “let your name be revered.” Or “make your name great.” It is an appeal that God would glorify and magnify His name above all names. And so in asking God to hallow His name, we are glorifying God.
2. Prayer Shows Our Dependence on God
In addition to it glorifying God, prayer also shows our dependence on Him. It shows that we have real needs, requests, and petitions that we are simply incapable of fulfilling apart from Him. It is a humbling realization and one that leads to deeper dependence on the Lord, who is powerful and able to answer our prayers. Jesus reminds His disciples of this utter necessity to depend upon Him: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Apart from being united to Christ, we can do nothing.
With this is mind, pastor and author John Piper writes,
“Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as all-sufficient” (Let the Nations Be Glad, 79).
Oh how true this is! When we pray, we admit that we need God above all as the all-powerful, sovereign God of the universe.
3. Prayer Changes Things
Lastly, we pray because we trust that prayer changes things. James informs his readers that they “do not have.” Why? Because they “did not ask” (James 4:2). The readers did not ask—that is, they did not pray—and so they did not receive.
Prayer changes things. The good God who is sovereignly in control over all things loves to use (and answer) the prayers of His people in order to fulfill His purposes. Again, John Piper explains this well when he writes,
“Prayer is the coupling of primary and secondary causes. It is the splicing of our limp wire to the lightning bolt of heaven. How astonishing it is that God wills to do His work through people. It is doubly astonishing that He ordains to fulfill His plans by being asked to do so by us. God loves to bless His people. But even more He loves to do it in answer to prayer” (Brothers, We are Not Professionals, 68).
God uses our prayers to bring about real change in this world.
What to Pray For During This Pandemic
With these three reasons to pray in mind, what should we pray for while the world is at war with COVID-19? Here is a list of nineteen requests that we may join together and pray for. You do not need to pray for all of these requests every day. But I do suggest that, however you do it, you pray through the entire list. And once you reach the end, continue to cycle through it for the duration of this global pandemic.
- Praise God that He is in control over all of these things which is a tremendous comfort. He is not surprised by this viral outbreak and He will ultimately be glorified in and through this pandemic.
- Pray for the church, that we would love our neighbors well by being a light in the darkness, bringing hope to the hopeless, and showing the world our joy-filled dependence on Christ, even in the midst of crisis.
- Pray for those who are currently infected with the virus, that they would be healed.
- Pray for the elderly, those who are immunocompromised, and any others who are high-risk for getting the coronavirus.
- Pray for those who are struggling with fear, anxiety, or depression, that they would come to know the love, peace, and joy of Christ.
- Pray for our government—federal, state, and local— for wisdom how to best protect its citizens during this pandemic.
- Pray for the hospitals, urgent care clinics, and all other health care facilities as they care for those who have the coronavirus. Pray also for wisdom as to how to navigate responsibly caring for and protecting other patients who don’t have the virus.
- Pray for the doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other medical professionals who are on the front lines of caring for those with this virus.
- Pray for our police officers, EMTs, firefighters, and other emergency response personnel.
- Pray for all levels of our education system, that they would have wisdom in how to navigate the weeks ahead in the midst of the social distancing recommendations.
- Pray for small business owners who don’t have the financial capital to weather this storm like bigger corporations.
- Pray for those who are struggling financially or losing their jobs as a result of all of the shut downs, that they would find comfort in the God who will provide for their needs.
- Pray for those of Asian descent who might be experiencing racism as a result of this pandemic.
- Pray for the poor and marginalized who may not have access to the care that they need if infected.
- Pray for China, specifically for wisdom for its government, for healing of its people, and that the gospel would spread through the country.
- Pray for Italy, specifically for wisdom for its government, for healing of its people, and that the gospel would spread through the country. Pray for wisdom for the medical professionals as they face very difficult situations in trying to care for all of the people with limited resources and medical equipment.
- Pray for the rest of Europe (e.g. Spain, France, Germany, United Kingdom, etc.) which is becoming a hotbed for COVID-19. Pray for wisdom for their individual governments, for healing of their people, and that the gospel would spread through their countries.
- Pray for other foreign governments (e.g. South Korea, Iran, Brazil, Japan, etc.) that they would have wisdom on how to protect their citizens and stop the spread of the virus.
- Pray for the complete eradication of the coronavirus and a restoration of everything that has been affected by it.
Finally, I want to challenge everyone reading to do the following three things. Will you take the Pandemic Prayer Challenge?
- Pray for at least one or two of these requests every day.
- For every article you read on the coronavirus, pray for one of these things.
- Use Facebook as a place to write out written prayers for these requests. Or if you feel uncomfortable posting a prayer, then post the prayer request that you are praying for that day. (This will encourage others to pray, but also will show our non-believing friends our dependence on God and our love for our neighbor).
Brothers and sisters, let us, in faith and dependence on our God, lift up these requests to our good, sovereign, heavenly Father. Let us be a people mighty in prayer for His name sake and for His glory.
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