Depending on how you’re wired, this pandemic thing either calls you to pray or wraps around your prayer muscles like an electric eel. It stuns you. I find myself on edge, wary of glib pronunciations about the meaning of the moment we’re living. I may, on occasion, get a little cynical.
But I also find myself praying, and I want to pray through this in a way that’s faithful and smart. Like writer Pete Greig, I’m asking: “how do we become less jaded and guarded, more faith-filled and expectant, without kissing our brains good-bye?” (How to Pray, p.86).
Here are three prayers I’ve been offering up lately:
1 – Lord, make me more.
This is a moment that calls for something more from us. Healthcare and essential workers know this already. But all of us sometimes need the simple courage to hang in there, to stay put, to not give up in despair. The more I’ve been praying for has been the more of seeing opportunities to connect, the more of reaching out to people, the more of recognizing the heart of what we do together as the church and wholeheartedly doing it. Because, if you’re anything like me, sometime in the last six months you will have slid off life’s road and gotten stuck at least once. Lord, make me more. Give me what I need in this time and place to go beyond myself for the sake of your kingdom.
2 – Lord, make me less.
And yet, we can’t fix it. We can scarcely comprehend the scale of the pandemic. Faced with something so global and deadly, our response has to be to approach with humility. This means refusing to lock up just because we can’t wrap our hands and hearts around the enormity of the need. Do something in the right here and the right now. Check in on your neighbor. Donate to the foodbank. Practice being a non-anxious presence. But it also means not being too quick to claim that we know what God is doing or not doing with the coronavirus, whether that’s a morality tale of environmental degradation or an epic call to repentance. As N.T. Wright puts it in his recent book, God and the Pandemic, “We sometimes have the impression that the coronavirus is providing people with a megaphone with which to say, more loudly, what they were wanting to say anyway” (p.7). I think as followers of Jesus we would do well to come out of this pandemic with a reputation for being kind, present, helpful, and sacrificial, not for making flip and insufferable pronouncements of God’s judgment. Lord, make me less. Give me the humility to walk quietly through the battering noise of this present storm.
3 – Lord, heal the world.
I keep finding myself making statements like “When there’s a vaccine, then we’ll …[fill in the blank].” We’ll go back to work and set out on vacations. We’ll pack out our churches and shake the rafters with our song. We’ll do everything we did before and more. When there’s a vaccine. But I wonder if that places too much hope in human ingenuity. Yes, God’s given us marvelous brains and sent us out into this great big world to use them. But all healing is ultimately God’s healing. As Sirach puts it in the Apocrypha, physicians’ “gift of healing comes from the Most High” (Sirach 38:2). I think we’ve got to be going to the source right now, praying that God will unleash the kind of deep healing that our souls–and not just our bodies–need. Lord, heal the world. Heal our lungs and our hearts and our sense of smell and taste. Heal the inner parts of us that we don’t even believe need healing.
Those are my three prayers. Whatever you do, whether you pray them or not, keep in mind Jesus’ words: “Always pray and never give up” (Luke 18:1 NLT).