Everyone is writing about the coronavirus, or so it seems. No doubt we’ll see plenty more thoughtful advice in the coming days and weeks. I don’t have anything insightful to add to these voices, so today I’m simply writing out a few ways I want to be praying as this pandemic worsens.
Things are only just getting started in Australia. Unlike other countries, we don’t have widespread school or church closures at the time I’m writing this (Saturday 14th March). But it’s getting worse every day, especially in my state of New South Wales. I’m staying home from a couple of events because I’m a little bit ill—seems to be a mild cold or just overtiredness, but I want to be cautious.
As much as I’m tempted to make things all about me, it’s more important than ever before to be loving other people well. Whether I go out or stay home must be dictated by love. And whatever I do, I need to be better at praying, because God is sovereign and good and he answers prayers. I’ve written this largely to keep myself accountable for praying, but I’d love if you’d join me in these prayers too.
For the health of all people
Of course we pray for physical healing and for the virus to stop spreading. I’m young and will most likely be absolutely fine if I contract coronavirus, but I have plenty of people in my family, church, and neighbourhood who are elderly or immunocompromised. I need to pray for their protection, and for everyone in Australia and around the world.
Pray for sick or vulnerable individuals by name, and more generally for those you don’t know. If you are sick yourself, the psalms are a rich resource for expressing yourself to God in prayer.
For my church
As well as asking God to protect the people in my church, I’m praying that we will take this opportunity to show extraordinary love to one another. At the moment we’re still having Sunday service and most ministries, albeit with precautions to keep people safe. We have no idea whether things will worsen to the point where we need to cancel church.
But whatever happens, we are a body and a family. I’m praying we will be looking out for each other—especially the most vulnerable among us—and continuing to meet together as we can, even if that’s just online. May our hearts be focused on Jesus during this time, not turning inwards from fear. The temptation might be to isolate ourselves or take the opportunity to check out and binge Netflix. Social media allows us to keep in contact even physically separated. We need each other’s help to keep pressing on in “love and good works…all the more as [we] see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
For myself in ministry
This coronavirus is a terrible thing. I’m not denying that. But in a way I see myself as greatly blessed to be doing my ministry apprenticeship during this time. I’ve spent a year learning how to do ministry in normal church contexts—Sunday services, midweek Bible study, youth group, and other ministries. But now all that is threatened. I have no idea what the rest of my apprenticeship is going to look like. We may have to drastically change how we do ministry for a time. And that could be a really good thing for my own heart.
I don’t want to get into the habit of thinking that ministry is all about the structures. Like if a group is cancelled temporarily, I can just sit back and relax for a while because that’s one less thing on my schedule. No, those ministries are filled with people who need to keep hearing about Jesus. This pandemic will force me, along with the ministry team I work in, to think carefully and creatively about how to care for individuals without the usual structures to fall back on. I may have to do lots of more one-to-one work, or pastoring to people over the phone. I’m praying God will use this to grow my ministry skills and help me rejoice in his strength instead of relying on my own. May he grow in me a more loving, pastoral heart.
For gospel revival
Living in a prosperous society like Australia makes evangelism really hard. Many people are too busy with work, family, entertainment, and other activities to give serious thought to their souls. All these things create a false sense of security. But a pandemic strips so much of that away. Our neighbours are scared—and we have the only message that brings rock-solid hope. We have the good news about Jesus. No matter what happens to me, I can rejoice because I know I have salvation through the blood Jesus shed for me. A perfect eternity awaits me beyond my death.
Perhaps God is going to use this pandemic to rouse people to think about eternal matters in a way they never have before. This is an opportunity to hold out the word of life and see souls saved. Oh, how wonderful it would be if God used this terrible situation for revival! But we need to keep praying for it.
We need to follow any orders to isolate or quarantine ourselves, but thankfully we live in a society saturated with technology which allows us to connect with others even when we’re stuck inside. Let’s prayerfully consider how we can leverage those opportunities to keep speaking the gospel. I want to be thinking carefully about how I can practically care for my neighbours and speak to them about Jesus. If I ask God, I’m confident he will give me both the opportunities and boldness to do this. Who can you reach out to this week as a voice of joy and hope amidst all this panic?
In times of crisis we might be tempted to neglect prayer for the sake of things that seem more urgent. The reality is that nothing is more urgent right now than prayer. We can’t control what’s going to happen as the coronavirus spreads. But we have a faithful, mighty God, and he invites us to pray to him. He will faithfully answer us when we seek him.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25–34)