Recently I received a list of prayers that might take us through the difficulties we are presently facing with restrictions in our life-style, during the present global pandemic. It started well. “Our great physician, we ask for Your healing touch for those infected with the virus. For those facing quarantine and feelings of isolation, comfort them with the promise of Your presence. We declare Psalm 91:10-11 – that no plague shall come near our dwelling for You shall give Your angels charge over us, to keep us in all Your ways”.
Prayer for me, is a learning experience, even after a life-time of talking with my Heavenly Father. Something about this prayer bothered me. When Jesus was asked how we should pray He began with the tender reminder that God is our Father, great and majestic, sitting on His throne in heaven “Our Father who art in heaven….hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). Now this puts us in the right frame of mind as we approach a Holy God.
This is, after all, the God who can bring either blessings or curses upon His people depending on their obedience to Him. And indeed He did just that back in Nehemiah’s day– the Israelites tried the patience of God until He was forced to bring consequences of their choices upon them. They were in exile when Nehemiah discovered things back home in Jerusalem were deteriorating, and he wept. Many folks are weeping because of the impact of COVID internationally today. Things are deteriorating around the world. Does God see? Know? Care?
How did Nehemiah deal with his painful thoughts, with his grief? Did he shake his fist and ask “How could a loving God let this happen?” or did he claim the promises of God? What comes first when we want to claim God’s blessings? Our heart attitude must be scrutinized. “Search me O God and know my heart…..see if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24). Nehemiah’s first thoughts are of confession, nationally, personally and communally; he and his father’s house and all of Israel had earned the wrath of God (Nehemiah 1:6-7). When we are in distress do we remember to examine our hearts before God and then confess our sins?
Carrying on where we left the Lord’s Prayer….then Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s will does not allow wickedness to run rampant, unchecked. His disciplinary actions may be hard to bear, but very necessary nonetheless.
Looking at our world today it would seem that everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. If we saw the chaos and hatred, violence or neglect through the eyes of God, perhaps our prayers would take a different shape. People are dying without understanding God’s love. Have those of us who enjoy it let our world down? What can we do, or pray for, that will remedy the situation?
Our words display what is on our hearts. How awful is it to offend God? In a world that focuses on my rights, we sometimes act as though God owes us something…they call that entitlement. Is this approach we take with the Supreme God, Lord Jehovah, Yahweh? It is a great eye-opener on what sort of a God we worship when we come to Him demanding, rather than humbly beseeching His favour. Of course we want COVID to end – it’s a plague, the very pestilence Jesus said would be a sign of His return (Luke 21:10-11). What is foremost on our minds when we think about COVID?