Years ago, 95-year-old Ruby went to a local bank in Richmond Hill, and people there were surprised by her joy. Ruby spoke about Christ, who is the source of her joy. Then Ruby asked the bank teller, “How can I pray for you, dear?” The teller was amazed and asked Ruby, “So you believe in prayer?”
Every Christian should understand prayer like Ruby. And like her, we need to trust that our prayers are effective since God listens to our prayers.
If we pray faithlessly, then our prayers will deteriorate to mere repetitions and meaningless rituals. It is only a matter of time for people to realize they do not want to pray. Or, for others, they begin to treat prayers as psychological therapies. Like talking to a psychiatrist, we are just complaining to an invisible being. The apostle Paul told us that prayer is more than a conversation or religious ritual. It involves the triune God, and it transforms those who pray (Rom 8:14–30). What we pray matters.
One reason why we find it hard to pray is because, as Don Whitney argues, we always pray the same things. That’s why praying the Bible will free our prayers from usual formulas and so become biblically led. Still, there is still a danger to only pray for our nitty-gritty.
Such a desire not only flows from our method but also our sinful nature. We tend to be self-centric, which is contrary to the purpose of prayer. We pray to acknowledge our inability and dependence. And so, prayer as a spiritual discipline should train us to be less egocentric. In prayers, as in other spiritual disciplines, we should develop our love toward God and others. The question is, how much do we pray for others?
With the global spread of pandemic COVID-19, most of us are staying at home and practising social distancing. For many, it may feel like fear, worry, loneliness, and sadness are more deadly than the virus. Our situation forces us to spend more time calling upon God. “Do you not care that we are perishing” (Mark 4:38) should also be our prayer to the one who calmed the storm and will also restore peace and joy in us. Thus, as disciples of the risen Christ, we can live differently, even in our quarantine. Let us pray more!
Here are three ways we need to pray:
First, pray for everyone in your church.
As Christians, we must pray for our brothers and sisters in our local churches. We need to love each other in prayers. Remember them in their isolation and for their need. For Christians, there is nothing more heartwarming than to hear another Christian express their care and love in prayers. As fellow pilgrims, we need to meet often at God’s throne of grace though we cannot always attend in person at this time.
Second, pray for everyone in your community.
We also have an obligation to pray for our neighbours. For those who live in condos, it is common not to know anyone living on the same floor. However, that should not be an excuse to avoid praying for those who live next door to you. Pray for their physical and spiritual needs.
Third, pray for those who are infected with COVID-19.
Hundreds of years ago, when Christians took the responsibility to take care of the sick, their reason was to imitate their Saviour and to follow his commands (Matt 25:31–40). Regardless of their interpretation, they are right that our Saviour knows our weaknesses and sufferings, as he became like us and experienced life.
With self-love and fear, we may blame certain people for bringing the pandemic to Canada, and become apathetic towards those who have tested positive with COVID-19. Let us not think of our neighbours as mere numbers and cases. Instead, remember their suffering in prayers.
Though we cannot visit them in the hospitals, we need to love them by praying for them. One way to practise this principle is to visit the government’s website and note the list of confirmed cases. Though we only know their case number and age, that’s enough for us to pray for their recovery. Moreover, let us pray our merciful God may prepare our neighbours’ hearts for Christ.
Recently, many have talked about a new norm after the pandemic. Indeed, there will be changes in every sphere of our lives. For Christians, we don’t need to worry, for our God is the one who rules over the flood (Ps 29:10). Nevertheless, let us make it a new norm of prayer. By experiencing this global pandemic, may we learn to depend on God alone and love each other.