I was supposed to fly to Baltimore today to visit my daughter and family for her birthday. We had tickets to go to Brazil in April for the wedding of our foster daughter’s son on a beach east of Rio de Janeiro. All that has changed. At our age it doesn’t seem responsible to travel for fun in the midst of a fast developing situation. Our isolated house in the Northwoods seems much the best place to stay.
So how do we pray in the midst of a situation like this?
A favorite passage of mine is Isaiah 43:1-2, beautifully set to music by my childhood friend Craig Courtney.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned; [or consumed]
the flames will not set you ablaze.
When, not if. Bad things will happen in our lives, even the lives of believers. But we don’t need to panic. God has promised to be with us in the hard times. He walks with us through the waters, the flames and Covid 19.
God uses hard times to get our attention. The wise King Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple for God to hear his people’s cry for help when bad things happened.
When, not if.
“When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, [when Covid 19 strikes and our 401Ks collapse], whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of their afflictions and pains, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors” (2 Chronicles 6:28-31).
Notice that the end Solomon prays for is not that our problems would all be solved and we would live happily ever after. No. He prays that in the end we would fear [respect] God and live our lives the way he wants us to.
Most people in this country and the world go about their lives without a thought of why God might have created them, what he expects of them, the meaning he intended for their lives. May this fear around Covid 19 cause us to evaluate our lives, how we use the gifts God gave us, where we are seeking for meaning, what it will be like to stand at the end of our lives before a holy God.
So let’s pray for strength for medical workers, for wise decisions by authorities, for responsible behavior on the part of those who may have come into contact with the disease, for stabilized markets, and yes, for safety for ourselves and our loved ones. But let’s also pray for revival in this country, for a movement of the Holy Spirit in the world, for an unprecedented turning to the Creator and Sustainer of life who loved us enough to walk among us, touch those with vile diseases, bring healing, and die and rise again to give us the power to be all he created us to be.