The COVID-19 Outbreak of 2020
By now, COVID-19 is probably on your radar no matter where you are in the world. Rather than offer more news--the internet is full of it—I would like to share some ways to pray as we walk through some interesting and uncertain days. While some are saying there isn't much risk with this pandemic, the global economic and medical impact is staggering.
People across the globe are quarantined and major tourist areas look like ghost towns. The NBA, PGA, March Madness, and high school sports are gone indefinitely. Many churches (possibly even your local church) have canceled services or opted to meet virtually to help prevent the spread of this highly contagious coronavirus. The CDC's latest recommendation is to cancel or postpone all gatherings of 50 people or more for the next 8 weeks!
As Christians, we know and trust that God is sovereign over chaotic and scary situations like this coronavirus outbreak. We also know that uncertainty and fear can grip even the strongest of believers in times like these. Psalm 91 reminds us that God is a refuge, shelter, and fortress for those who abide in, dwell with, and trust in Him. One of the greatest ways to exercise our faith is to pray.
10 Ways To Pray During the COVID-19 Outbreak
1. Pray for the lost. There are millions (if not billions) of people around the world who don't know Jesus or the hope we have in Him. We don't lose heart in these perilous times because we know there is more to life than this flesh and blood. We know that He who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Him and bring us into His presence (2 Cor. 4:14). We need to remember these truths and pray for our unsaved friends and family.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18
2. Pray for the sick. A tiny virus can speed up the process of our bodies wasting away, but God is powerful enough to heal us. We need to pray for both the bodies and souls of those who are sick because bodily health is important, but spiritual life is much more valuable. While our physical health is sure to fade, Christ gives us eternal life that will never decay. We want the sick to be healthy and righteous:
"...the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous."
3. Pray for the Church. Let us not forget about Christians in the places most heavily impacted by COVID-19. Christians in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and many other nations are being heavily impacted by this virus. Some of the churches in these nations haven't been able to gather for weeks, some church members may have been killed during this outbreak, and others will be facing tough times in the coming days and weeks. We also need to pray for Christians in our nation as well as believers in our local churches. Scripture commands us to pray for all the saints.
"...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints"
4. Pray for church leaders. Not only are pastors judged with greater strictness for what we teach (James 3:1), but we are also accountable to God for our leadership of the church. As we make decisions about how to navigate these challenging and scary times, pray that God would give us wisdom (James 1:5). Whether or not you agree with every decision we make, pray for us. Pray for God to give you words of gratitude and encouragement over the coming weeks and months.
"Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
5. Pray for government leaders. This COVID-19 situation is highly politicized and fraught with skepticism, conspiracy, and fake news. Rather than drawing strict party lines and spreading false reports about our government leaders, pray for them (Exodus 23:1). In general, we have become too lax with how we speak about and pray for our government leaders. Make no mistake, God is not silent on how we should regard and pray for our government leaders. We need to pray for God to graciously give them wisdom and guide their hearts (Proverbs 21:1). Read and think about Romans 13:1-7. Also heed God's command to pray for government leaders.
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."
-1 Timothy 2:1-2
6. Pray for wisdom. In situations like this, we all need to exercise wisdom. If you're in isolation and practicing social distancing, perhaps you could devote some extra time to reading Proverbs and consider how to walk in wisdom. If you're healthy, pray for God to help you navigate life in a way that could prevent you from contracting or spreading COVID-19 to others (since it is often spread through people who don't have any symptoms). If you're feeling ill, pray for wisdom as to how to seek treatment or quarantine yourself until your symptoms subside.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."
7. Pray for first responders and healthcare workers (and their families). It can be easy to forget about the doctors, nurses, EMTs, police officers, firefighters, nursing home workers, and others who keep our healthcare infrastructure up and running. I have friends and family who work both on the front lines and behind the scenes in healthcare. These people are risking their lives and giving the best of their time and energy to help people impacted by COVID-19, as well as people facing other ongoing medical situations and issues. As you're praying, send up some gratitude for these people and all of the others who are spending and being spent on behalf of this virus. Also, don't forget to pray for their families. Spouses, children, and other family members are now having to distance themselves in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
8. Pray for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Early on, I comforted myself with the notion that this new coronavirus really only seriously affects the elderly and the immunocomprised. Perhaps you have done so, too. Rather than comfort ourselves in others' misfortune, we should pray for them. We should empathize with them. Many of the physically vulnerable aren't afraid or worried at all, but some of them are terrified. They hear what we hear and see what we see (and say). We should pray that God would comfort them and protect them, even if it is just like a the flu or a minor case of pneumonia. Now is a great time to remember the mind of Christ.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
9. Pray for humility. In situations like this COVID-19 crisis, there are at least two ways pride manifests itself. For some of us, we are so self-reliant that we think we can outsmart and out-prep the coronavirus. We put our faith in a 2:1 ratio of alcohol to aloe—hand sanitizer. We put our hope in the food we have stashed away in our root cellars or basements. Others exhibit pride in thinking that they are invincible. They think to themselves, "I'm a young, healthy American, nothing will ever happen to me!". God calls us all to cast our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He also commands that we look humbly toward the future.
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'"
10. Pray for your heart. In tumultuous seasons like these, our hearts tend to float from one crisis moment to another. We go from fear in one moment to a deep sense of security in God in the next. Then we get gripped by uncertainty as more news floods in. During these frenzied and tumultuous times, we must pray for our hearts. We need to pray that God would graciously help us keep watch over our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). We need to fight the urge to be constantly checking in, reading our feeds, and distracting ourselves from the realities of death and weakness. Rather, we should examine ourselves to see where our trust truly lies and beg God to strengthen our faith.
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"
-2 Corinthians 13:5