What a wonderful morning we shared together yesterday. Even though we were only together virtually, we worshipped together! It’s so good to sing familiar songs about the God we love and who loves us! After we worshipped, we had our first online coffee hour; it was wonderful to see one another again. More than 30 people participated; some dropped in briefly, others stayed for the entire hour. Again, a big thank you to the teams who worked so hard to put the morning together, and thank you all for joining in. Ed quietly launched our church YouTube channel yesterday as well, which will make participation easier for the greatest number of people.
Our reflections this week will be on “Pandemic Praying.” Like most, if not all, of you, I’ve never lived through a global pandemic, so I’m just learning how to pray through it. I hope you participate by praying, and we will learn together.
Today, we begin with the fact that the God we pray to is BIG—really big, and in control—totally in control. How big is your concept of God? Well, He is bigger than that. He is bigger than we can imagine or put into words. There is no Scripture passage which completely explains how powerful and glorious God is or the extent of his loving embrace, so I rely on this excellent summary in Romans 11:36,
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!
We turn to God in times like these because He is bigger than whatever situation we face. He is bigger than this pandemic. He understands why viruses exist. He can see the end result for the world, for his church, and for you and me. We can’t see it, so we worry; God can see it, and He is not worried.
We turn to God because God is love. Because He is love, He is in loving control. He cares about our situations and wants us to bring them to Him in prayer. And He acts in love.
(This might be a good time to go and read Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9, Q&A 26.)
We turn to God because He can be trusted. God has a plan, and because He is God, His plans will not be thwarted by a microscopic virus. In fact, He will use this virus and this pandemic, ultimately, to achieve His purpose. And we can trust that God will work in keeping with that purpose on behalf of those He loves.
And, we turn to God because He will form us through this (and every) situation. As we pray to Him, God aligns our wills to His perfect will, and shapes our hearts to be more like His heart. As we pray, we learn to trust His protection, to repent of our sinful actions and reactions, to cry out for mercy for the world, and to take our prayer vision off of ourselves and intercede for others. These are the themes we will be examining this week.
Please pray with me:
God, we confess that you are God in heaven and you are holy, and we thank you that you have revealed yourself to us with a Father’s loving heart. We so long for your kingdom to come and your perfect will to be done, right here on earth (as we already know it is done in heaven). So, we lift this pandemic up before you. We can’t see your purposes in it, and maybe we never will, but we want to say that we trust you and we trust your purpose and will. As you simplify our lives now, teach us to truly thank you for today’s bread and to demand it for everyone else today, too. As debt is incurred now at a frightening rate, we forgive those indebted to us and ask that you would forgive the massive debt that we have incurred. Lord, we fear that evil may gain the upper hand during this time, so we beg you to take us far from the temptation to participate in it, and lead us back again to your heart of love, that we may be formed, day by stay-at-home day, into your likeness. For from you and through you and to you are all things. To you be the glory forever! Amen.”
May I suggest two prayer actions for you this week:
1) Participate in the “hours” of prayer. Expand your set times of prayer to the ancient way of morning, afternoon and evening. Setting a fixed time of prayer (using paper or electronic reminders if need be) keeps us from getting caught up in busyness and gives us time, space and reason to call upon our big God again about this pandemic.
2) The hand-washing prayer. As you are washing your hands (again and again) for 20 seconds each time, use that time to pray just one specific, COVID-related prayer.
Today's blessing was suggested by both Pearl and Bill VG:
God go before you to guide you.
God go behind you to protect you.
God go beneath you to support you.
God go beside you to befriend you.
Be not afraid.
Let the blessing of Almighty God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Descend upon you,
settle in around you,
and make its home in you.
Be not afraid.
PS – If you know that someone who would benefit from receiving this, please share this with them.
PSS - if you feel the need to lighten up a bit, then I leave you with this favourite, from 1993; I hope it makes you smile.