Pandemic Praying 2
Ontarians will have no trouble remembering St. Patrick’s Day 2020. This has nothing to do with being Irish—that was the day our province declared a provincial state of emergency to combat COVID-19. It was of course no coincidence that they did so on a day when so many people normally gather to drink green beer and be Irish-for-a-day. That was two weeks ago, and we are learning how to live physically separated.
On Sunday we introduced an alternate blessing, which you can find at the end of this page. You may recognize it as what Scott Hoezee playfully calls “a riff on the well-known breastplate of St. Patrick.” (Thanks to Bill VG for that article.)
St. Patrick is of course the patron saint of Ireland, and the breastplate is his famous prayer of protection. I hesitate to link you to any specific version of the breastplate because there are so many variatoins—but you might enjoy listening to this version, sung as “The Deer’s Cry,” as you read on.
Patrick of course knew tremendous hardship in his life, beginning with being captured by pirates at age 16 and brought to Ireland to work as a slave. Yet in his old age he said in his confession, “The Lord my God guarded me before I knew him, and before I came to wisdom and could distinguish between good and evil. He protected me and consoled me as a father does for his son.”
In times of distress, we turn to God for protection, as David did in Ps. 40:11,
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
This psalm begins, expectantly, with the words:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
And ends with an open heart,
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.
Pause and pray those words, now.
Our friend Rev. Tuula van Gaasbeek of St. Philip’s Lutheran Church shared some pastoral advise from Martin Luther, given in 1527, when the plague struck Wittenberg:
"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God." (Martin Luther, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague," 1527, p404.)
God is indeed my deliverer and my protection. Yet I do not pray that God would make me immune to this virus. What I do is try and abide by government and health department regulations, and to try and keep my family, friends, neighbours, church members and acquaintances safe, so far as it depends on me. And I pray that God would make me faithful for whatever comes in this day.
I am learning to pray. To pray for the protection of health care workers and front line responders, as we read daily of the shortage of personal protection equipment. To pray for protection for residents of long term health facilities. To pray God’s protection for those living in unsanitary and overcrowded conditions where the virus could run rampant. To pray for the protection of those who live without access to clean water to wash. And to pray God’s protection over our church.
In closing, let’s pray together as our Lord taught us to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Take this blessing with you today:
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 - Everything in this article that is bold and underlined is a live link; click on it to be taken to a new page for more information
PSS – Please also pray for the church Council as we meet every Tuesday night to shepherd us through this difficult season.
PSSS – Movie Night is tomorrow night! Details are on the Events page.