The panic in my west-coast city is palpable. The grocery store has been sold out of clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, and flour for several weeks. Toilet paper seems to leave the shelves as soon as it arrives. Retail stores and restaurants are closed. By order of the Governor, K-12 schools are shut through the end of April and universities are finishing out the academic year online. My university has sent the students home, and cancelled all events until commencement (but postponing that decision until early April). Public meetings, like church, are not happening, and there are rumors of a shelter-in-place order coming from the Mayor. The fear is everywhere.
It’s easy for me to do the same thing as everyone else (panic). It’s how we’re wired. Fight or flight. In this case, I’d rather flee. But I can’t, because it’s real and the pandemic isn’t in a faraway country, it’s in my city. Facing our mortality—and lack of control—is scary.
Fortunately, as Christ-followers we have a third option: pray. It’s easy though for my prayers to sound hollow and me-centered, of the “God, please keep me and my family healthy” variety. So how might we pray more in line with the way Jesus taught us to pray (“thy kingdom come, thy will be done”) and what should we be praying for? Here are a few suggestions for how to pray for the coronavirus pandemic. The following prayers are from The Book of Common Prayer1 if you want words to get you started:
- For those caring for the sick
Almighty God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people: Continue in our hospitals his gracious work among us; console and heal the sick; grant to the physicians, nurses, and assisting staff wisdom and skill, diligence and patience; prosper their work O Lord, and send down your blessing upon all who serve the suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- For those who are sick
Almighty and immortal God, giver of life and health: We implore your mercy for your servant N., that by your blessing upon him and upon those who minister to him with your healing gifts, he may be restored to health of body and mind, according to your gracious will, and may give thanks to you in your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- For those who are fearful
Most loving Father, you will us to give thanks for all things, to dread nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on the One who cares for us. Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, and grant that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested unto us in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- For those who in facing their own mortality find an awakening hunger to know God
Merciful God, you desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to you and live; and through your only Son you have revealed yourself as the God who pardons iniquity. Have mercy on the unrepentant and those who do not believe. Awaken in them by your Word and Holy Spirit a deep sense of their sinfulness and peril. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of your Word. Grant them to know and feel that there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved, but only the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so bring them home and number them among your children, that they may be yours forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Sprit, one God, world without end. Amen.
- For Health and safety
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
- For those caring for the sick
The Book of Common Prayer (2019); copyright by the Anglican Church in North America. ↩