Praying boldly: coronavirus 2020

Darrell Johnson is asking God for a miracle.

Darrell Johnson has written a challenging comment which may help you prepare to participate in the Day of Prayer and Fasting Across Metro Vancouver (every Wednesday, as the threat from COVID-19 persists).

During the past days and weeks, many believers (and many not-yet believers!) have been praying over the alarming, disarming, disorienting and, for many folks, frightening phenomenon of the coronavirus pandemic, and its associated disease, COVID-19.

I have been deeply moved by the prayers I have heard and read, prayed with sensitivity to all the dimensions of the crisis. Prayers asking God to heal those who have contracted the disease; asking God to comfort those who cannot be near loved ones suffering from the disease; asking God to protect critical health servants; asking God to protect truck-drivers who are keeping the supply line going; asking God to watch over day-care workers watching over little ones; asking God to give wisdom to government leaders needing to help masses of people navigate uncharted waters; asking God to hold those who have lost loved ones in His heart. And much more. Deeply moving.

But I have not heard passionate pleading for the Living God to do what only He can do: stop the spreading of the virus! Oh, there have been a few voices crying out for what would have to be a massive miracle, but not as many as I would have expected, especially given the near helplessness of the situation. Instead, I have sensed a seeming reluctance to boldly ask the Creator and Saviour of the world to simply stretch out His hand and put an end to the “pestilence.”

Why is this?

We are talking about it . . . and to (!) . . . the One Who, by simply speaking, called the universe into being. We are talking about it . . . and to (!) . . . the One Who, by simply speaking, holds the universe together moment-by-moment.

The One Who parted the waters of the Red Sea. The One Who caused water – and honey! – to flow from a rock in the desert. The One Who provided “bread from heaven” every morning for 40 years in the wilderness.

On it goes. We are talking about it . . . and to . . . the One Who incarnated Himself in our flesh, born into our world through the womb of a virgin. The One Who healed leprosy and epilepsy. Who made the lame to walk and the blind to see and the deaf to hear. Who, simply by speaking, freed people long held in the grip of the demonic.

Who, after giving Himself for the life of the world on a Roman cross, was raised from the dead! From the dead! Is there any greater enemy? Raised from the dead! Can this One not enter the crisis and stop the destroying plague?

Well?

Ah, maybe therein lies the reluctance. Maybe we do not believe He can. I hope that is not the case. I understand that it can be hard to believe. But given all that He has revealed about Himself through salvation history, I hope our reluctance to pray boldly is not due to lack of faith in His goodness and power.

So, why then the reluctance?

As I was walking the other day – appropriately socially distancing myself from other walkers – I thought of seven possible explanations for our holding back. See if you agree with them. See if any are true of you.

  1. We are reluctant because we think it presumptuous to be so bold. Fact is, we say, this is a broken world and will be until Jesus comes again, bringing with Him His new heavens and new earth. And we say to ourselves that we simply have to accept the fact of brokenness for now and ask for the grace to endure and persevere. Why should we in our time think that we should not “just face the facts” and press on?
  1. Related to the above, why should we in our time ask for such a miracle when people, God’s people, have suffered even worse crises in the past? Why should we in our time be exempted from such suffering? Are we that “spoiled” by the blessings of modern technological wonders that we think we can ask to be spared?
  1. Or, going deeper, maybe our reluctance is actually nurtured by an addiction to the latest “Breaking News.” Oh, I hope not! But I think you know what I mean. There is a kind of “rush” that comes with being bombarded by the latest sensational development. I am not here speaking ill of the media. Most in the media are sincerely wanting to help us by keeping us informed – “in the loop,” as it were. But many in the media are hooked on the hype and we catch the infection. So, is it possible that deep down in our soul, we secretly want the crisis to go on for a while and so, do not pray for it all to end?  No, Lord, let it not be so for us!
  1. Or maybe it is that we so hope for Jesus to come and bring about the new creation, that we are content to “hold out” until He comes. He could come at any time. “The time is near,” says the apostle John in The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Every passing day makes the Great Day of the Lord one day sooner. So we, rightly, live alive in that hope, and then, wrongly, just accept the way things are in the meantime.
  1. Or maybe – and here I am going to press into painful parts of our soul – maybe we prayed boldly about something else in the past and God did not come through as we had expected. We prayed for a loved one to be healed and it did not happen. We prayed to be protected from some harm and it came anyway. The earthquake destroyed our house. The fire swept through our neighbourhood. The floodwaters just kept rising. And we had to live with the consequences. So we are afraid to pray so boldly lest we are disappointed again. I understand this possibility. Unresolved disappointment in the secret place, keeping the heart from daring to try again to implore the Almighty to act in miraculous ways.
  1. Or maybe we are concerned about God’s reputation in the world if we pray so boldly. We do not want in any way for His name to be shamed. So we say to ourselves, secretly, “What if we pray boldly before the watching world and God does not act as boldly as we boldly ask Him to act?” God loses face or so we fear. And thus we hold back.
  1. There is one more possible reason for reluctance. Maybe we see in the fact that God is, apparently, allowing the virus to spread, a form of His righteous judgment. The world is broken because we broke it. In the persons of Adam and Eve, we disobeyed God’s one good command to not try to live on our own, apart from dependence upon Him. God had warned our parents that to strike out on our own, to try to make life work on our terms and in our own ways, would result in disintegration, decay, death. Throughout the story of God with the world, there have been times when God has let peoples “have their way,” resulting in wars and destruction and disease, doing so in the hope that allowing the consequences of sin would cause people to wake up from the illusion and turn back to Him. We think that maybe God is allowing the coronavirus to happen unto that end. And if this is the case, then to ask God to stop its spread would, or could, prematurely curtail the good to be achieved by the supposed judgment. So we hold back, waiting until it is clear that God has achieved the redemptive end. But how will we know when that time comes? How long might it take? We wrestle, grapple, muse, but not pray.

Is any of the above making sense?  And does any of it account for any reluctance in you to pray boldly?

So, where do we go?

I can only speak for myself. I think we acknowledge any or all of the above, and still, pray! We go back to the basics of the Gospel of Jesus: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” Why? So that the world might know His life, eternal life. God loves the world. This world. A rebel world. An ignoring-the-ways-of-God world. A broken-because-of-the-ignoring-and-rebelling world. In incomprehensible mercy, God loves this world!

And so we – I – ask this God to do a miracle. Not in an arrogant way. Not in any entitled way. Not in a flamboyant way. But in humility and repentance. Coming with nothing to claim, throwing ourselves on the mercy manifested on Good Friday – ”Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

Crying out: “Oh God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Oh God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Your great mercy, please stop the spread of this virus. In the name of Him Who died for the life of the world.”

And as I rise from my knees, I pray that He would get the credit for the miracle.

Amen.

This comment is re-posted by permission from Darrell’s Preachers’ Workshop website.

Darrell Johnson has been preaching Jesus Christ and His gospel for over 50 years. He has served a number of Presbyterian congregations in California, Union Church of Manila in the Philippines and Vancouver’s  historic First Baptist Church. He is serving as teaching fellow at Regent College and is widely recognized for his positive leadership role in the broader church in Metro Vancouver.

10 comments for “Praying boldly: coronavirus 2020

  1. Satomi Hirano says:

    I stand with you on praying boldly because we have boldness to go before the throne of God (Hebrews 10:19).

    I would add #8 as not only are we reluctant but is there a deep-seated ‘unbelief or disbelief’ in the word of God. How many times have I gone into my prayer closet and affirmed the word of promise given me about a certain situation and heard the Spirit say to me, “Do you believe this?”

    Is my praying and trust equally generous as Julian of Norwich said, “We believe God is Almighty and shall do all things, we believe that He is all Wisdom and can do all things but that He is All love and will do everything, there we hold back”. This is my daily practice as Jesus said in John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

    God is very much in this pandemic and I stand with those spiritual leaders taking authority over this ‘god of pan’ in the virus.

  2. Brian Hornibrook says:

    An excellent article by one of the truly gracious and Christ-loving men of God in our day. Thank you Pastor Darrell for articulating so well the other side of the pandemic we are facing. I hope and pray people will meditate on what you have written and seek the Lord’s might whole-heartedly. Thank you again for your grace in the midst of the storm.

  3. Christopher Cheung says:

    Thank you for this message.

    As a member of the media, I must comment on number three. If there is any “addiction” to news, it’s in the same sense as clamoring for updates about a sick loved one, out of care and concern. And when those updates are bad news, it takes a mental toll. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that to “go on for a while.”

    Journalists who abide by the code of their profession report on the state of the world so that its people can make informed choices.

  4. Lydia Nigh says:

    Thank you Pastor Darrell. How quickly we forget about the mercy and power of God. Less than two months ago, on Feb 10, 2020, God intervened in Australia and put an end to devastating bush fires that had been burning since Oct 2019. He sent “the heaviest rain in 30 years” that ended up flooding and providing much needed water! He is a God of abundance! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

    Here is an excerpt of the BBC news article:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-51439175

    Sydney has been hit by its heaviest rain in 30 years, bringing widespread flooding but also putting out two massive bushfires in New South Wales.

    Australia’s weather agency said 391.6mm of rain had fallen in the past four days in Sydney, more than three times the average rainfall for February.

    About 100,000 homes are without power, and officials have warned flash floods could be life-threatening.

    But the rainfall means only 17 fires are still burning across the state.

    The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said on Monday afternoon that the rains had extinguished more than 30 fires over the weekend, calling it “the most positive news we’ve had in some time.”

    The latest to be declared out is the Gospers Mountain blaze, north-west of Sydney. Since October it has burned 512,000 hectares, and was considered a mega-blaze that was “too big to put out.”

    On Sunday, the Currowan fire, around the town of Shoalhaven, was also put out. It had burned for 74 days, destroying nearly 500,000 hectares and 312 homes.

    However, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has warned that fire-hit areas can be particularly prone to flooding, and that fast-moving waters can carry large amounts of debris.

    The Warragamba Dam, which supplies most of Sydney’s water, is heading towards being 70% full, says WaterNSW.

    At the end of last week it was at only 42% after one of the driest years on record.

  5. Ssekaggo Mike says:

    I believe this is a ‘wake up’ call for us to go back to our Father, the Lord of Hosts, who holds the keys for each and every opening that there is in this universe!

    We needed to be reminded, because in such a time confusion sets in and you end up not doing the obvious.

    Thanks brother.

  6. john smed says:

    I think Darrell has given us an excellent framework for out thoughts and prayers. Thank you Darrell and thank you Flyn for keeping us in deep and meaningful prayer!

  7. Rudiger Krause says:

    Thanks for this. Certainly nourishing food for thought and spirit.

    I would articulate #7 a bit differently. It seems clear and evident to me that humanity has lost its way in a particular manner during the last few centuries – politically, culturally, economically, ecologically.

    We are being called and given an opportunity to reconsider how to live our lives, individually and corporately. I think of it this way: the set-back gives us a chance to reset.

  8. Russ Swaim says:

    Can I spread this message?

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