Empty basketball and soccer arenas. Fanless March Madness. A bullish stock-market-turned bear. International travel restrictions. Stranded cruise ships. Classrooms turned into homerooms. Disappearing toilet paper.
The headlines related to the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, are steady and—at times—unsettling. According to the Whole Health Organization’s Coronavirus situation dashboard, the quickly spreading illness has infected more than 125,000 people worldwide.
Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have offered a variety of tips to help keep the virus at bay:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community
- Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Then wash your hands
- Wear a facemask if you are sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks
But what about the deeper matters of the soul?
For Christians worldwide, prayer is one of the most vital prescriptions available and there is no chance of running low on supply. And yet, when Vice President Mike Pence and the national coronavirus taskforce he is heading recently started one of their West Wing meetings with prayer, he was openly mocked.
“Bad Medicine: Symbolic of the moral and intellectual decay at the White House, a photo shows Vice President Mike Pence and his team trying to pray away the coronavirus,” Michael Stone wrote on his blog Progressive Secular Humanist.
“On social media, conservative Christians cheered at the embarrassing photo showing Vice President Pence and his coronavirus team wallowing in ignorant superstition and willful ignorance,” he added.
The response is not surprising, as the Bible warns that Christ-followers will be persecuted. In John 15:18, Jesus warns, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” In 2 Timothy 3:12 the author echoes that sentiment, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” And Paul, a bull for Jesus, relishes such persecution in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
What’s easy to forget in the midst of such persecution is that, during such times, we are actually blessed. Look at what Jesus says in the Beatitudes in Luke 6:22: “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
One of the most powerful Scriptures to remember in times of challenge is Paul’s words in Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”
So how do we pray in the midst of a worldwide pandemic?
Prayer for our government leaders
Thank you, Lord, for our national leaders, President Trump, his administration, members of Congress, the Supreme Court and our state governors. Lead them as they determine how best to govern in a time of great uncertainty. Let this be a time of unity where partisanship takes a back seat.
Please intervene on behalf of Vice President Pence and his national taskforce team, men and women who have spent years in the science field in preparation for moments like these. Tap into their expertise while guiding their minds and their hearts as they search for ways to circumvent the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ramifications are real and extend far beyond physical health. Reveal to them options to curb panic and help protect the financial, emotional and spiritual well being of the public. Be with their families in their absence from home.
1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
Daniel 2:21: “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
Prayer for first-responders, doctors and nurses
Please be with all of the emergency responders, doctors and nurses who are exposing their own health to save others. Protect them from exposure, both physical and emotional. Guide their hands and give them wisdom. Protect their families as they spend extended time away from home.
Psalm 91:4-5: “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.”
Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
Prayer against isolation and fear
Protect us, Oh God, from the fear and isolation we face as familiar American institutions begin shutting down in an effort to protect us from this worldwide disease. It is often in moments like this that we find comfort in being with one another and, yet, many of those options are being temporarily removed. In their place, Lord, help us to seek your face. Help us to model Christ, who often retreated to quiet spaces to seek solace and intercede on behalf of others. Give us insight into ways we can celebrate community from a distance. Help us to pray for our neighbors, co-workers—and even our enemies. Show us how to best make use of these unexpected “time outs.”
Isaiah 41:13: “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Prayer for the inflicted and those who are dying
You, Oh God, are the great healer and comforter. Be with those who are quarantined and waiting for word if they are infected. Bring peace and help the time to go swiftly. For those who are infected, bring healing to every cell, keep the symptoms to a minimum and bring comfort during their suffering. For those who have lost loved ones to the virus, draw them near. Ease their grief through your enduring love. Surround them with people who love them. Guide them to resources to help them through the loss. Hold their hearts in your hand.
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”
Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/nito100
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.