“Try this approach, O believer, whenever you are sad of heart and in heaviness of spirit: Forget yourself and your little concerns, and seek the welfare and prosperity of Zion. When you kneel in prayer to God, limit not your petition to the narrow circle of your own life, tried though it be, but send out your longing prayers for the church’s prosperity. ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ (Psalm 122:6) and your own soul shall be refreshed.” Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, July 16th Evening
Today is the National Day of Prayer, observed in the United States since 1952. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s probably easy for us to think of a list of petitions to bring before the Lord. Our needs and concerns feel very real, very present, and very immediate but Spurgeon’s words above are a good reminder that there is something refreshing and invigorating about lifting up the needs of the Church. Even when our own world feels like it’s crashing in during this pandemic… or, especially during a crisis like the one each of us feels today, we need to be praying for our brothers and sisters around the world. This year, I ask you to join me in praying for the Church, specifically the multitude of local churches around the world. Here are five ways that you can pray for these churches:
1 – Gospel Centeredness
There is a tremendous opportunity for Christians around the world to love their neighbor during the pandemic. I have heard of local churches providing food and shelter to people in their community who have great need. My own church has set up a task force of low-risk members who are volunteering to run errands to get groceries and medicine for neighbors near the church. Please pray that local churches around the world take the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to those whom the Lord places in their path. Pray that care for physical needs would lead to spiritual conversations, which would lead to new life in Christ.
2 – Biblical Faithfulness
Please pray for faithfulness to the Scriptures. My friends over at 9Marks recently posted a conversation between Jonathan Leeman and Conrad Mbewe, who is a pastor in Zambia, in which they discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic exposes the lie of the prosperity gospel. This is a helpful reminder of the dangerous heresy that has taken root throughout the world. Please pray that those who adhere to this false gospel would be convicted and repent. Pray that pastors will faithfully encourage their flocks from God’s Word. Pray that those who have previously sat under unfaithful teaching would be encouraged by the Scriptures and find their true joy in the Lord.
3 – Safety and Provision
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the trust”(1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Join me in praying that Christians around the world can live a peaceful and quiet life. While some governments have resorted to enforcing the quarantine with cane-wielding police officers, others have shown the capability to track individuals who have recently (over 14 days) been in close proximity with others who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s not a stretch to imagine this technology being used by oppressive governments to track Christians gathering in secret once the current pandemic has passed. Pray for the physical safety of your Christian brothers and sisters.
Pray for daily bread. While most of our grocery stores remain open in North America, and Western governments rush to provide financial support to affected individuals and families, I’m reminded of the dire situation facing individuals around the world. In some economies, individuals are paid at the end of a days’ work. When there is no work, there is no compensation. Where there is no compensation, there is often an inability to provide food and shelter for one’s family. The Economist recently ranked 66 emerging markets to determine who was at most risk of financial devastation during the pandemic. As I review the countries on the list, the faces of Christian friends in those countries flood my mind. As you look upon your own stimulus check, take a moment to pray for those whose governments won’t be in the position to provide a safety net. Pray that the Lord would give them their daily bread.
4 – Faithful Witness
Pray that Christians around the world would be faithful witnesses of the Gospel. In his recent book, “Coronavirus and Christ,” John Piper connects global missions with the current pandemic. He writes that, “The global scope and seriousness of the coronavirus is too great for God to waste. It will serve his invincible global purpose of world evangelization. Christ has not shed his blood in vain . . . Even pandemics will serve to complete the Great Commission”(98).
Pray for faithful Gospel witness in the days ahead and pray that God would move, in His Sovereignty, to gather people to Himself in the midst of this pandemic and in the years after the pandemic as Christians encounter individuals displaced by the events of the last few months. Pray that God would use this time when we feel our weakness the most to demonstrate His strength.
5 – Unity When There is no Assembly
I am a member of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Every Sunday, during our evening gathering, we pray for unity amongst many other things. We’ve continued to pray for unity in our Zoom meetings during the pandemic, even while we can’t physically assemble. I look at the faces of my fellow church members and I feel the pain of not being able to physically be present with them. I’m thankful, however, that we have access to technology that allows us to see each other.
Many churches throughout the world don’t have the option of filming their pastor on a Sunday morning. Most churches around the world aren’t assembling together physically and many don’t even have the means to electronically participate in a service. Please join me in praying for congregational unity during this time when local churches aren’t gathering and for church leaders as they decide on the proper time to gather again. Pray especially for those who haven’t been able to engage in any manner with their fellow church members throughout this pandemic. Pray that this time of physical separation will result in a tremendous spiritual unity when local churches gather once again. Pray that the observation of that unity will result in more people coming to Christ as neighbors see the beauty of His Bride.