Since I write my posts a couple weeks in advance, one of these days the COVID-19 virus pandemic will thankfully have passed, making my thoughts about it outdated. But until then, I continue to ponder what God might be seeking to teach us through this unsettling “season” of our history. Maybe, among other things, He wants to remind of what He’s said all along.
For instance, the significance of prayer. We tend to regard prayer for emergencies only, a last resort. Or as something we indulge in for a few idle moments – which, until we’re engaged in social distancing and staying in place, seem scarce. But prayer is important throughout the Scriptures, and we see repeatedly that when people pray, amazing things happen.
For instance, in Jeremiah 33:3 we read, “Call on Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about the prospect of seeing “great and might things” these days, especially if the Lord is doing them. When things seem darkest, that’s when the light of Christ shines brightest.
Another of my favorite verses about prayer offers this simple admonishment: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As I understand it, prayer is not something that occurs only at a certain time, when we’re in a certain place or in a certain position. To pray without ceasing means engaging in it continually, kind of like a face-to-face conversation – which we haven’t had much recently – or chatting with someone over the phone. There might be a pause in the exchange of words, but after a few moments we pick things up where we left off.
Of late, when followers of Jesus have mentioned praying about the coronavirus crisis, skeptics have scoffed, as if to say, “What good will that do?” In actuality, it can do a lot. Praying about any situation doesn’t mean passivity; in fact, the Scriptures teach whenever we have the opportunity, we’re to take appropriate and prompt action. But when we pray, we’re not only acknowledging and praising our God, but also recognizing His power and that He can do what we cannot.
Jesus told us, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Too often we fret and spit and moan and groan, when the most productive and meaningful thing we can do is pray.
There are some who have suggested COVID-19 is God’s judgment on America, or the world. I don’t know about that; such an idea is far beyond my theological pay grade. But when it comes to doing what God has said, especially when we’re unsure about what we should be doing, we have a powerful exhortation that we rarely consider.
Imagine if the millions of true followers of Jesus were to diligently and intentionally put into practice the instructions from 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
Occasionally we see this passage trotted out for a community prayer breakfast or a similar event, but it’s something we all can do – individually and collectively – at any time. On numerous occasions we read about the people of Israel doing this in the Old Testament. They had lost interest in worshiping and following God, choosing instead to go their own way. Much as we’ve done in our nation.
Then, when things turned bleak, the Israelites seemed to have one of those “Aha!” experiences. They repented, turned back to God, and He restored His blessings and protective care. Maybe that’s what the Lord is asking of us today. Things had been going well overall, seemingly without God’s help, but suddenly we’ve hit a major bump in the road. “What do we do?” we cry out in fear and despair.
Perhaps God is using this time to ask, “Are you willing to humble yourselves, and pray, and seek Me, and turn from your disobedience and rebellion? If so, I’m listening and eager to respond in ways you could never imagine.” Imagine that!