Prayer in a Time of Global Crisis
In times of crisis, we must go to God in prayer. How can we think through prayer in such difficult times as the coronavirus pandemic?
When the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy and the Ephesians to pray for those in authority ‘that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’ I’m pretty sure the virtual lockdown and empty streets we see around us are not what he had in mind!
Some Christians find it hard to know how to pray at such times. Some leaders find it hard to know how to lead their churches in prayer at this time.
So here are some ideas to help you. It’s not an exhaustive list but I hope it is a helpful aide-memoire as we seek to encourage our churches to commit themselves to their heavenly Father, seek to honour the Son, and rely on the Spirit.
At our church, we’re stripping down our meetings, but the one thing we are keeping going (albeit in a different form) is our prayer meeting.
Keep Praising God for the Gospel
Our joy – a fruit of the Spirit no less – comes from knowing God and being eternally secure. It is not circumstance dependent.
Too many of us – myself included – let our joy derive from our situation. We, therefore, find ourselves joyless at times like these. Or, perhaps more significantly, we confuse joy with happiness and so lose any deep-seated contentment in Christ.
Keep pointing your people to the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain.
Remember to be Thankful
Richard Lacey’s talk at The Hub 2020 was excellent on this subject: thankfulness, in Philippians 4, is an antidote to anxiety.
We need to keep cultivating thankful hearts in the midst of the uncertainty of life, which means learning to be thankful for every small token of grace and every evidence of the goodness of God. Lead your people in prayers of thanks.
Seek to be Filled with the Spirit
When we think of the work of the Spirit, we quickly think of giftedness. Whilst the Spirit does, of course, empower us for service, gifts are not universal. However, his fruit is.
So, I would commend Galatians 5:22-23 to you and encourage you to lead your people in prayer for a filling of the Spirit with this fruit in mind:
...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
How different Christians should be, and can be, in our relationships if only the Spirit’s fruit was overflowing from us to others.
Our heavenly Father loves to hear our prayers as we express dependence on him.
I found this list on the Christianity Today website to be a very helpful list.
Send people the link or print out it out for older folk in the congregation and pop it through their letterbox.
Pray for Gospel Fruit
Let’s be explicit in our prayers to ask that this time of difficulty will produce a harvest of righteousness: both in the deepening faith of believers and also in bringing people to faith and repentance.
This means praying that we make the most of opportunities as they arise.
Encourage People to Pray the Scriptures
However, do take care that you don’t misappropriate the psalms. Psalms is a wonderfully rich prayer book but it needs to be exegeted before it is applied.
The psalms are old covenant songs, which means they are also our songs but ones we can sing in and through Christ. Encouraging church members to ‘pray a psalm’ without comment may lead to disappointment with God.
“Why doesn’t he heal all my diseases?” one could ask, for example, having read Psalm 103:3. You know the answer to this as well as I, but some pastoral help is needed for your people just as much now as when you are preaching to them on a Sunday morning.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5.10)