REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 34: Pandemic Prayer
Last Sunday evening we prayed: O God, the protector of all that trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: increase and multiply upon us your mercy, that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (APBA (1995).
It is a good prayer, one of Thomas Cranmer’s set, for the 4th Sunday after Trinity in the 1662 BCP. It is also ideal for use during the pandemic. I want to be at prayer more often, but I also know hard it is to get started and to persist in prayer. A prayer, like this one, or a passage of Scripture, have always been a great help me getting started. I was glad to learn that I am not alone in this battle to pray when I read of John Bunyan’s his experience. He wrote: I find that my heart is slow to go to God; and when it does go to Him it does not seem to want to stay with Him; so that very often I am forced in my prayers, first to beg God that He would take my heart and set it on Himself, and then when it is there, that he would keep it there. (Leon Morris. Romans page 327).
The use of a prayer like this one, far from being wooden or formal, is simply a recognition that it is wise to use Godly means to get started and keep at prayer. It is like priming the pump, so that the desires of our heart might begin to flow to our heavenly Father. There are a number of reminders in this prayer that I found helpful last Sunday evening as our minister led us. They include: That things temporal can bring us many challenges, and if not prayed for, may tempt us in such a way, that might lead us to lose things eternal. This very possibility, is so alarming, that it alone should be reason enough to pray. But wonderfully this prayer, by reminding us that God is the protector of all who put their trust in you [Him], alerts us to the comforting truth that God’s grand design is not only to save but to deliver His own safely into His Kingdom. This is easily forgotten under temptations to doubt or neglect Him, especially as Satan tries to muddy the waters and memories of God’s grace. This then is suggestive as to how to pray for many around the world suffering the privations, poverty, uncertainty, loss of work and loved ones during covid-19.
Praying for these temporal matters in the light of eternity is a good gift we can offer others. Many of us will want to pray for the end of the pandemic along with the discovery of a safe vaccine, but prayer that God would keep His own secure to the end is just as, if not, more important. This is why the prayer asks God to: increase and multiply upon us your mercy. Every blessing, of the common grace varieties [like hand washing, ventilators, health care workers, living in WA not Victoria], and of gospel graces [like new birth from the Spirit, the Bible and prayer made possible through the gracious mediation of the crucified and risen Saviour], come to us as the result of God’s mercy. To be on our knees in prayer is a demonstration of our appreciation for God’s rich mercy to us in things temporal and things eternal. Indeed, for those of us in prosperous nations with a gospel heritage, the danger is to take the temporal blessings for granted, seeing them as our due and the fruit of our own efforts. In this way so many in our nation are likely to miss the things eternal.
If this is the case, the aspect of this prayer that is so important, is that we ask God, as a matter of urgency and first importance, to allow the unsettling effects of the pandemic, along with the emerging instability in the USA and Chinese muscle flexing, to mercifully draw many to Christ. Others in the world and our nation are doing all they can to stave off the temporal dangers of this pandemic. For this we ought to be grateful to both God and to them. But no one else in the world or nation, save those who already know God’s mercy through Christ, will be praying in the directions suggested by this prayer [and of course the Scriptural passages that lie behind its petitions]. We have this noble work to do. Nothing could be more loving, urgent and beneficial for our pandemic world.
Peter Brain 29th July, 2020