Plagues and Prayer
By Patrick Morley
We all know the last several weeks have been hard, and it’s likely the coming weeks will be hard.
What’s troubling you? What’s humbling you? Where is the ache in your heart? What are the physical needs going unmet? What’s spurring you to worship God and give Him glory?
Prayer is how God gives us a “voice” to pour out our hearts to Him, commune with Him, praise and worship Him, give Him glory, get our needs met, intercede for others, seek forgiveness, and usher the kingdom of God into human affairs.
Always online. Always in range. Always monitored. Always answered.
There is nothing for which we cannot pray, and there is nothing God cannot do. This opens up everything as subjects for prayer.
One of those subjects is a plague, a synonym for pandemic. And the Bible has a lot to say about plagues and prayer—all the way back to the plagues of Moses.
Solomon’s Model Prayer for a Plague
At the dedication of the First Temple, Solomon knelt before God in front of the nation and interceded at great length for every imaginable scenario—wronging your neighbor, being defeated by your enemies, famines and, yes, plagues:
When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of their afflictions and pains, and spreading out their hands toward this temple—then hear from heaven, your dwelling place.
Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors. (2 Chronicles 6:28-31)
God answered Solomon’s prayer with this instruction and promise:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)
Notice that Solomon said “when” a plague comes, not “if.” We’ve heard a lot recently about the Spanish Flu, which killed 50 million or more of the 500 million people who contracted the virus—one-fourth of the world population in 1917-1918. And the Black Death killed more than 75 million people in the 14th century, making it the deadliest in human history. Even in recent history, we’ve battled polio, smallpox, malaria, AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and more. Plagues are unpredictable, but inevitable. There have always been plagues.
But What Can We Do?
We salute all the brave men and women on the front lines fighting this plague and providing essential services. Our hearts go out to all who have suffered with the virus. We grieve for those who have died and the loved ones they leave behind, and remind them, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants” (Psalm 11:15).
Maybe you’re in the fight or maybe, like me, you’re watching from the sidelines. What can we do from the sidelines?
Someone said, “I guess the only thing we can do is pray.” Better to say, “The thing we can do is pray.”THE BIG IDEA: The thing you can do is pray.Click To Tweet
Here is a guide to help you pray through this pandemic.
Battling from the Sidelines
- PRAY DAILY: Begin every day with prayer. Oswald Chambers said, “Unless in the first waking moment of the day you learn to fling the door wide back and let God in, you will work on a wrong level all day; but swing the door wide open and pray to your Father in secret, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.”
- PRAY SCRIPTURE: Pray Scripture back to God. When a passage quickens your heart or makes your heart burn, pray it back to God. You could also add a highlight or note and date it. I love praying laments, such as Job 13:15a: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” And Jeremiah 20:9: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
- PRAY ON THE NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER: Set aside Thursday, May 7th, the National Day of Prayer, as a day of prayer and fasting.
- PRAY FOR THE PANDEMIC DAY OF PRAYER: Although the President proclaimed March 15th a special day of prayer, there’s no reason we can’t still lift these requests up today! Read the details here.
- PRAY FOR INDIVIDUALS: When interacting with people, ask them how you can pray for them. Pray for them on the spot and/or tell them you’ll pray for them, that you’re writing it down, and then write it down using your favorite app or a legal pad. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…” (1 Timothy 2:1).
- PRAY FOR LEADERS, HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS, FIRST RESPONDERS: They have been given the challenging responsibility of containing and conquering COVID-19. “[Pray] for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2).
- PRAY FOR ESSENTIAL WORKERS: Who knew, right? But now that we know, “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18b).
- PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING: As said above, there is nothing for which we cannot pray, and there is nothing God cannot do, so “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18a).
- PRAY WITH FASTING: Start a weekly day of fasting with prayer. This can look various ways. Personally, I don’t eat solid food for 24 hours, but I do drink protein shakes to get a few calories since I still do my work. “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
- PRAY AND JOURNAL: Pray with a pad. Jot down your prayers and date them in a notebook or on your favorite app. I add prayers to my recurring weekly calendar event, called Prayer for People.
- PRAY THROUGHOUT THE DAY: Saying one prayer is like eating one potato chip. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
- PRAY LIKE SOLOMON: Pray 2 Chronicles 6:28-31 (above).
- PRAY FOR HEALING: Pray over 2 Chronicles 7:13-14—now and often, until you memorize it: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
- START A MINISTRY OF PRAYER: For the last decade, God has increasingly called me to a ministry of prayer. Prayer ministry is perfect for the constraints of this time. Use texts, email, and social media to let people know they are in your prayers. Start small and see where it goes. (If you’re a ministry leader, start an intentional ministry of prayer to the men of your church!)
My Prayer for You
Our dearest Father, in the same way You made a distinction among Your people during the plagues of Moses, I ask with my whole heart that you create a “spiritual Goshen” (Exodus 8:22-23) for every man who reads this prayer, the people he loves, and those for whom he has responsibility. For the glory of Christ and no other reason, amen.
Yours for changed lives,