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Public Prayer in a Viral TimePublic Prayer in a Viral Time

Public Prayer in a Viral Time

Cardus Executive Vice-President Ray Pennings faced a challenge today of leading our dispersed staff in a reading of Scripture and praying out loud. In these days of isolation, anxiety, and deep need for God’s comfort, Convivium shares the answer he found.

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Public Prayer in a Viral Time March 18, 2020  |  By Ray Pennings
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The responsibility of leading a group in devotions is always a significant one, but especially so in a time of anxiety and crisis.   What passage to pick?  What to say – or not say – in prayer?

Public prayer differs from personal prayer. It is, after all, spoken out loud and others present are invited to eavesdrop.   The task, as I understand it, is to attempt to put into words what the entire group might be feeling. Form and detail should be appropriate to the familiarity and purpose of the listeners.   To publicly lead in prayer is to express to God the shared feelings and sentiments of the people on whose behalf you are praying.   

These thoughts were on my mind this morning as I prepared to lead devotions for a Cardus staff meeting. Given the highly unusual times, this was not one of our regular staff meetings. It was done over Zoom remote video conferencing because, like virtually every workplace in Canada, our 30-plus staff members have been working from home for the better part of a week.   One of our staff has an immediate family member who is awaiting test results after exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Many have family members who are crossing borders or having other complications.

We are a work community.  But though we are divided between two offices in two cities, we care for each other as colleagues and are used to sharing the details of our families and personal circumstances with our co-workers.   

We are a public organization, with a calling to speak into the public square with wisdom and leadership that might be helpful to those who read and hear our words.   

We are a charity, dependent on the support of our donors and while no one has answers, it would be unnatural for any of us not to think about what this economic restructuring means for our organization and our long-term future.   

We are ordinary human beings, who have all of the fears and anxieties that come with the daily count of a virus that is continuing to grow and has the potential for devastation if the curve is not flattened.

So what to say? I began by reading Psalm 46, those inspired words that God’s people have turned to throughout history when they were in trouble. It is a confession that “God is our refuge and our strength, our ever-present help in trouble. God does not need to be reminded of that. He is sovereign whether we acknowledge Him or not.   But in the midst of our anxiety and questions, especially at times like this, it is something we need to be reminded of over and over and over again.

But what to pray? Social media had drawn my attention to a prayer used last Sunday at St. Paul’s Presbyterian church in Orlando, which spoke to me.   Separated as we were in 30-plus different locations, I wanted a prayer which included a corporate response so that we could hear each other’s voices and enhance the bonds which Zoom thankfully could provide us, with the limitation technology places on incarnational reality.  

So, I borrowed these words, adapted them to the circumstances as best I could. Convivium’s editor asked me to introduce and share that prayer with our readers.  I do so hoping that readers may find comfort and strength in reading this, and that the Sovereign God who hears and answers prayer, may be pleased to answer these petitions.

Let us pray.

Our Father in heaven, as the world faces a global health crisis, we praise and adore you because you reign for us in your crucified and risen Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who not only “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17), but also “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

O Lord, you reign!

Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

O Lord, you reign!

You command us not to be anxious about anything, but in everything — by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving — to make our requests known to you (Philippians 4:6).

O Lord, you reign! 

We thank you for Jesus who, during his earthly ministry, healed so many people that “all who had disease pressed around him to touch him” (Mark 3:10)

O Lord, you reign!

And we come before you now with thanksgiving, asking for the healing hand of your Son, our great Physician, the Lord Jesus, to touch us and our world today.

O Lord, you reign!

Have mercy upon us and bring this virus to an end.

O Lord, you reign!

Have mercy upon the 204,000 plus individuals who have been infected by the virus.

O Lord, you reign!

Have mercy upon us and comfort the families of the 8,269 fatalities that are recorded as of this morning.   Help us to show compassion to those mourning loss, recognizing that every life is not just a statistic but of a created image-bearer of God who has dignity and worth and whose lost will be felt by loved ones.    We pray for those who are grieving in these circumstances where ordinary funerals and means of comfort from loved ones are not available.   Grant them special divine hugs and embrace them with our love.

O Lord, you reign!

Help us to honor the elderly and to protect the most vulnerable from infection.

O Lord, you reign!

We pray for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that you would give the authorities wisdom and discernment to make wise decisions.

O Lord, you reign!

We pray for the leaders and the peoples of countries that have been hardest hit. Have mercy on the people of China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Italy, France, Spain and those in the path of this virus.

O Lord, you reign!

We pray for the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals the world over.   We pray for our Prime Minister, the Premiers, all of the mayors and those cabinet ministers who carry special responsibilities at this time.   We pray for all our public health officials, both those in leadership roles but especially those on the front lines who are risking their own safety and comfort to serve others.

O Lord, you reign!

We pray for each other as Cardus colleagues, that each of us and our families may be kept safe.   We pray especially for our colleague’s son as he awaits the results of his test, and any others that are near to us of whose circumstances we are not aware.  Even as we are now separated physically, may we none-the-less continue to care for each other as colleagues.  

O Lord, you reign!

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Give us wisdom so that the words we speak and publish may be upbuilding, encouraging, and helpful to a confused world that is looking for wisdom.   We pray for our supporters and donors who so generously provide the resources on which we rely daily – protect and bless them Lord, even as we know they seek to responsibly steward the blessings with which you provide them.   And through it all, free us as an organization from anxiety and encourage us to trust in you for our every need.

O Lord, you reign!

We pray for other charitable organizations and churches.  We pray for missionaries and relief workers in dangerous areas where there have been large outbreaks.   We pray for   those who continue to work daily in order to keep the supply chain going so we can access the daily provisions on which we rely.

O Lord, you reign!

Have mercy upon us and help us as your people to seize this moment of crisis to be salt and light, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly, to be obedient to the Great Commission, and to seek first you kingdom.

O Lord, you reign!

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the fear (which makes too much of this virus) and foolishness (which makes too little of it).

O Lord, you reign!

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the even greater sickness of our sin which has infected every single one of us and plagues our world.

O Lord, you reign!

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from arrogant and irreverent babble, boasting, blame shifting, and slander that spreads like gangrene and plagues our sin-sick world.

O Lord, you reign!

We thank you because you forgive all our iniquity and you heal all our diseases (Psalm 103:2).

O Lord, you reign!

May your peace that surpasses all understanding guard our hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus for it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

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