Difficult passages in the life of a person, a community, or a nation often drive people to prayer. While prayer is always available to us, so many of us are not available to pray. We are too busy, to hurried, to distracted, and to selfish in our paradigms to stop to communicate with our God. Prayer is far too often a recitation of things we want God to do, and it is quickly finished so we can rush off to the next thing.
Times change, circumstances go south on us, and disruptive and even frightening events come to us. And quickly prayer becomes more important. Sadly, for most of us the change is more about how dire we think our need is, not about how more important our God has become. Yet, he still loves us and cares for us. He listens to us at all times regardless of our motives.
To our dismay at times, He answers our desperate praying according to His divine wisdom and will, and not according to our short-sighted view of our needs. We forget that we are extremely limited in foresight, wisdom, and clarity. The answers our God gives are always perfect for us from a truly objective perspective. And only our God has that perspective. We think we know what is best, but we almost never do.
So how should we pray when we are confronted with something like Covid-19? Our God gives us clues in a number of places in the scriptures. We can start with Psalm 91.
King David, the author of this psalm, was no stranger to danger. He was a warrior from his youth and had fought in and survived many hand-to-hand battles. You can see this in his use of metaphors – shields, arrows, fortresses, refuges, ramparts, etc. He also speaks of plagues and pestilence. These metaphors are most appropriate to our situation today. Check out the first part of the psalm, verses 1-6.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely, he will save you from the trapper’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
This psalm is easily converted into a prayer like the one I am using daily in these times. My prayers from this psalm vary a little every day, but they follow a pattern similar to this.
“O God Most High, I choose to dwell in the shelter of your presence in me and my union with you. I choose to rest in you, and in the shadow of your perfect protection. You, Lord, are my only refuge, my only fortress, my only God. I know that I can trust you, and I do trust you.”
“You, Lord, can save me from the snares of all my enemies, and for that protection I now pray. You can save me from the deadly pestilence, and for that saving I now pray. I pray for you to cover me and provide refuge for me in these difficult times and events. I know that your faithfulness to me is a shield and a rampart to protect me from any evil and attacks.”
“Because of you, my God, I am not afraid to the terrors that surround me, the threats to my safety that seem to fly into my life, or the pestilence that stalks me or the plague that is besetting us all.”
If you pray this prayer, will you escape Covid-19? It depends upon our God’s wisdom and will. He has the power to keep us from harm and will do so in response to our prayers if that is the best response based upon our needs and His work in and around us.
I have often prayed for healing and protection, for others and for myself. I have been healed miraculously at least a dozen times in my life. Yet I have also had to endure painful injuries and many illnesses for which I prayed, because it was objectively best for me to experience them.
I have been spared in dangers too numerous to count. Yet there have been many times I have not been spared, and have experienced costly difficulties, painful injuries, deeply upsetting circumstances. I know I was not spared because it was vital to my growth and God’s work in me that I endure them.
I have been spared death in likely fatal circumstances more than 30 times. So far, so good. Yet I know there will come a time when I will not be spared death. At that time, death will be the very best passage for me and for my God’s work.
We must remember that our temporal trials and dangers are not the most important things from which we need divine deliverance. Difficulties are often the best way to deliver us from deeper problems within us. Often, our best deliverance comes through our circumstances, even our most difficult ones.
Right now, it is clear to me how I should pray, and it is clear to my God how He should respond. Even though I am praying this psalm, I may contract the disease. If I do it will be what is needed in the moment. And I may even die. Death is the lot for every one of us. It is not the certainty of death that is in play, only the timing. And my God’s timing is always best.
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