Following Jesus

discipleship • the inner life • prayer
community of goods • faith • repentance

Following Jesus

Praying for Healing and Restoration

Remarks on the National Day of Prayer

May 13, 2020 by

The following remarks were spoken on May 7, 2020 as part of an online Zoom conversation on hope and renewal to mark the National Day of Prayer.

Good evening to all who are gathered with us around the globe. Thank you for taking the time to join us. We appreciate each of the speakers who joined us on such short notice.

Tonight we welcome an international audience of over 1500 listeners – and we greet each one of you. So before going further, let us turn our hearts to God in prayer:

Our father, in the power of thy holy name we gather before thee tonight to ask that your spirit is with us for this meeting. Our nation, and our world are suffering, and in need of your intervention. We plead for thy forgiveness for our sins and failings. We ask that you give strength and healing to all who are infected with the Covid virus. Uphold their families. We ask for fortitude, courage, and protection for all who are on the front lines of caring for the sick.

And Lord, may each of us renew our resolve to turn back to thee. We praise and thank Thee, in Jesus name, Amen.

Now, one of the inspirations for this evening gathering of prayer came from a recent event titled Communities of Faith and Covid-19, wherein Professor Robbie George reminded us of the words of Abraham Lincoln in 1863, when Lincoln instituted the first National Day of Prayer, especially the significance of his words:

“We have forgotten God…intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

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Until very recently, we could not have imagined that the American health care system could be so completely overwhelmed, the death tolls so high. Yet it is so encouraging to see how people are pulling together, to see where many levels of leadership are finding new ways to work together. We pray that it continues and even improves!

And so tonight it is very significant that we intercede and pray to God – asking for his mercy, his forgiveness, and his intervention in this hour of personal and national decision.

Jesus instructs his church to watch and pray, to remain connected to the vine of Christ, and united with the body of believers. We remain connected to this vine through continued repentance and renewal. For scripture tells us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

Recent studies indicate that it could be another eighteen to twenty-four months before the crisis subsides, and this estimation forces us to make agonizing decisions.

So tonight is about looking forward and encouraging one another now, to persevere and hold the course, and stay focused, while this time of testing and tribulation continues—and it does continue. Many are suffering and dying.

The post-Covid world will look very different. All areas of life will be profoundly changed.

While the disease ravages local hospitals and nursing homes, do we choose to allow the suffering to change us, to hit our hearts?But what does that mean for us now? While the disease ravages local hospitals and nursing homes, do we choose to allow the suffering to change us, to hit our hearts? Or will we instead choose further isolation – secluding ourselves in fear behind our masks and closed doors and turning to selfish entertainment and other diversions – idols – rather than allow our hearts to be moved?

Yes, we are apart physically, but we are not separated. The enforced division is an insidious and evil aspect of this virus: That as communal people we are forced apart. This is contrary to the way of Jesus, for Christ brings true unity. In one of his last prayers, the High Priestly Prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for the unity of believers, that the church would remain one. And so we are united by far more than our shared humanity. We are united by faith. We are united by prayer. We are united by Christ.

Coronavirus has shown us that there are forces at work that are far greater than we can comprehend. Forces of God for love and goodness, and also forces of evil and sin in the seen and unseen world. We pray tonight that God will overcome.

Rebuilding in the world shaped by Covid-19 will demand much more than just safely restarting the economy. We cannot forget the scale of human suffering that existed long before the coronavirus: the refugees, the conflicts, the economic injustice and famine.

As we look forward, what will we do about the inner rebuilding that needs to happen? As people emerge from isolation, they will need true fellowship and companionship. They will need someone to listen to them, to grieve with them. There will be many who will bear the wounds of this time in their souls – in mental illness or spiritual heartache. Each one of us can play a role in being there for others.

The Church – the community of faith within society – will have a vital role in filling this void. It will demand continued and intensive prayer, asking God to show us what we must do. It will call us to work much more closely together. It will call us to both personal and national renewal and sacrifice. Remember President Kennedy’s exhortation to ask not what our country can do for us, but rather, to ask what we can do for our country, words more applicable than ever. This time has shown us just how desperately we need each other and need community. To comfort and heal, to support and listen, we need one another, and most of all we need Jesus.

Tonight, from our hearts we express our deep gratitude for all who are serving on the front lines – the doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, firefighters, police officers, and public health workers who are battling each day with the onslaught of sickness, suffering and death. Their hands have carried, caressed, and comforted the lonely, fearful, and dying friends and neighbors in their hour of need. Truly they will be eternally rewarded in the life to come. We also do not forget the delivery drivers, the sanitation workers and cleaning staff, the grocery store workers. The invisible army of non-medical workers. We owe each of them not only our gratitude, but also our prayers for their protection.

Speaking now directly to the young people, who are particularly a key audience of our Breaking the Cycle team, each one of you will have an important role to play in rebuilding this new post-Covid world, to make it more just, more compassionate, and more Christ-centered. Our community, our nation, and our world is counting on each of you!

Thank you for joining us tonight.

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About the author

Paul Winter

Paul Winter

Paul Winter serves as the Elder of the Bruderhof. He lives with his wife, Betty, at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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