A friend of mine once confided to me that she struggled to ask God for things when she prayed. She’s a highly intellectual, erudite person, yet she seemed to be stumbling over the idea that God already knows what we want and, more importantly, what’s best for us (and that they aren’t always the same thing). Therefore, what’s the point in asking Him for anything?
My friend is highly knowledgeable about a great many topics, but as far as I’m aware she doesn’t have any experience in keeping gerbils. Maybe you don’t either. But I do, and keeping and caring for these little critters has, I believe, given me some insight into the nature and motives of God.
Let me explain what I mean. Gerbils are not like hamsters, which have been selectively bred for docility and low flight response, meaning they’re ready to pet and handle as soon as you bring them home from the pet shop. Gerbils are different. They’re much more intelligent than hamsters, and they’re flighty. Once you have a pair (they don’t like to live alone), you then have to undergo the painstaking process of taming them.
One of the ways you can do this is by hand feeding. The gerbils then learn not only that your intentions toward them are benevolent, but also that you are their source of nourishment. They begin to trust you, and this paves the way for relationship. Relationship, after all, is generally why human beings like to have animals as pets, which is part of the reason you probably won’t find snakes or spiders appealing unless you’re a bit weird.
I believe it’s a bit like that with God (we are, after all, made in His image, which means we naturally seek relationship with other living things). God can, and does, faithfully give humans what they need without their having to ask. But I believe that He also wants us to come to Him with our hands open, in childlike trust, and ask for these things. Jesus did, after all, assure His disciples that whatever they asked for in His name, the Father would give them. He delights in answering the prayers of His children because this is one of the ways in which He reveals Himself to us – as the loving source of all that is good in our lives.
It’s expected that the next few weeks will probably be the most difficult here in the UK (and in the USA) as we enter the ‘peak’ of the coronavirus pandemic. If watching the news leaves you drained and lost for words when you come to pray, please take this post as encouragement that God hears your prayers and desires to answer them. With that in mind, here are ten suggestions of things to pray for over the coming days and weeks.
1. That God would heal the sick.
Jesus, the Great Physician and our compassionate high priest, knows the joys and difficulties which can come with living with a human body that is susceptible to illness and death. This compassion and understanding lead healing to flow from Him when He walked the earth, and most Christians will be able to tell you incredible stories of miraculous healing which has happened as a result of prayer.
2. That God would comfort those who are mourning.
Scripture tells us that the Lord: ‘is close to the broken-hearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed’ (Psalm 34: 18). The Holy Spirit is called the Comforter for a reason, and we pray that those who are in grief would experience His consoling presence.
3. That those who have lost parents would experience God as their Father and Mary as their Mother.
Many of the saints lived in hard times when it was common to lose a parent in childhood. One such saint was Teresa of Avila, whose mother died when Teresa was a teenager, leaving her understandably distraught. In her grief, Teresa turned to Our Lady, finding comfort in her maternal love. We pray that those who are grieving a parent at this time would come to know what it is to be her children and children of God.
4. That God would look gently upon those who have died and welcome them into His presence forever.
The Bible tells us that God ‘desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2: 4). We pray that those who have passed into the next life experienced grace and the comfort of the Lord’s presence – and that they will now enjoy eternity with Him.
5. That those who are in need would experience God’s provision.
We pray that more and more people would experience God’s miraculous providence during this time of economic and financial uncertainty. We also pray that He would reveal to us ways in which we can help one another and give us the grace to do it.
6. That God would protect our key workers and give them the strength to continue in the days ahead.
Doctors, nurses, healthcare staff, administrators, cleaners, retail staff, bus or train drivers, the emergency services – we pray that God would shield them and their families from sickness and uphold them with His strong right hand as they continue their work.
7. That God would bless the efforts of the scientists and researchers as they work to find a vaccine or effective drug treatment for the virus.
Contrary to popular belief, the Church is not the enemy of scientific endeavour or the advancement of knowledge. We pray that the Holy Spirit would grant inspiration and insight to those working in this particular field, and help them to discover new ways of protecting and preserving human lives.
8. That God would grant world leaders the gifts of prudence, discernment and wisdom in the days ahead.
The pandemic appears to have shaken even the most confident politicians and has showed that it is no respecter of persons. We pray that those whom God has appointed to positions of power would be granted the gift of sound decision making and that God would guide them as they lead their respective nations safely through this crisis.
9. That the Holy Spirit would release joy and peace over families who are in lockdown together.
For many families and couples, being cooped up together for extended periods of time can be a recipe for upset or even violence. We pray that the Lord would be with these families and give them the grace they need to co-operate and care for one another in the days to come.
10. That God would grant Christians new opportunities to share the Gospel and the source of our Hope.
As Christians, we know that sin is the real pandemic in our world and that it always leads to death – but we also know that there is a cure, and the cure has a Name. Let’s pray that God would grant us the ability to recognise opportunities to share our faith, the words to do it graciously, and that many souls may be brought to saving faith in His Son.
What are you praying for at the moment? Please feel free to share your intentions in the comments. If you are alone at this time and would like someone to pray with you or for you – or just to chat – please leave a comment so that the Vicar can connect us.
By Lucy Stothard