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Learning to Pray in a Pandemic

April 23, 2020
|
preached by
Adam Rodriguez

This season in history has left me thinking a lot. It’s not that I have more time to think. I telework even when we’re not going through a global pandemic, so I’m working full-time as usual. Rather, the omnipresence of the situation means most of my thoughts go back to it, or come out of it.

I’m not afraid of getting sick. At my age, I’d likely fight it off without an issue, and even if I didn’t I know where I’m going. But the fact that the world has changed permanently in ways we don't understand yet has left me with a low-level anxiety about what we’ll emerge into.

Seems like a good time to pray, right?

I meet with a group of guys weekly in the early morning. We talk about life, theology, politics, work, books, and the like. After that, we pray for each other. Zoom’s existence makes me glad I live in this time, because I need that encouragement, again, even when we’re not going through a global pandemic.

But what about the other six days of the week? I ought to pray on those days too, right? But I don't.

I’ve tried to fix that in many ways, but it always comes down to not making the time for it. I find it easy to make time to read books or the Bible, or listen to a podcast or an audiobook. I like input. The output part of things...I don’t find that so easy. That feels like time I could spend in input mode.

So What’s The Problem?

Despite knowing prayer is important, despite telling others countless times in countless settings that prayer is important, I’ve realized I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that God will hear or act. I don’t believe my prayers mean anything.

That hurts. But it’s the only possible answer. In my head, I know I need to pray. But if I don’t pray, it shows I don’t believe it’s worth it.

So What Do I Need to Do?

I Need to Confess to God

Paradoxically, the most important thing I can do about this is to pray.

I need to confess my unbelief. I need to plead along with the father of the demon-possessed child, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). I need to confess that I rely too much on my own pitiful strength.

I need to confess my unbelief. I need to plead along with the father of the demon-possessed child, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

I’ve neglected this. In the past, I’d confess to God that I hadn’t prayed. I’d declare to him and others my intentions to start again. And I’d fail again. I was trying to pray without first pleading with the Spirit for His help in doing so.

Only after that can I start asking the practical questions.

I Need to Settle on a Method

I need to decide to pray. And in my past attempts at reviving my prayer life, I’ve stumbled around aimlessly with multiple ways to do it, never quite landing on something that stuck, except one.

So I’ve decided to go back to that one: Martin Luther’s method.

His method is simple:

First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little Psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Lord’s prayer, Ten Commandments, the Creed, and if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do. [1]

Then, pray through them, or some of them.

Practically, it helps. Sometimes I don’t know how to start praying, but the Lord’s Prayer provides a clear starting point: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.” How better to begin a prayer than by acknowledging God’s greatness?

Sometimes I don’t know how to start praying, but the Lord’s Prayer provides a clear starting point: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name.” How better to begin a prayer than by acknowledging God’s greatness?

God gave us 150 more prayers in the book of Psalms. How better to warm our hearts than by reading God-breathed prayers?

Of course, I need God to help me use these prayers. I need His help to meditate on them, to soak them in, and to use them to pray back to Him.

I Need to Schedule Time to Pray

I don’t remember where I heard it first, but prayer is an appointment with our King. I make appointments to see my doctor. My boss and I check-in on the same day at the same time every week. My relationship with God is much more important than either of those. Shouldn’t I schedule some time with Him?

I make appointments to see my doctor. My boss and I check-in on the same day at the same time every week. My relationship with God is much more important than either of those. Shouldn’t I schedule some time with Him?

Of course, I shouldn’t limit times of prayer to a schedule. I may schedule dates with my wife, [2] but I spend much more time with her outside of dates. But those scheduled times allow us to get away from the distractions of everyday life and be together. Likewise, those times I set aside to devote to God alone help me focus on Him alone. They help me “put on the whole armor of God, that [I] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” throughout the day (Eph 6:11). They also provide fuel for spontaneous prayer during the day, another habit I need to cultivate—or rather, that I need God to cultivate within me.

And while I may set a schedule, I need God to empower me to keep it. Night-before me wants to get up in the morning to pray, but next-morning me would rather snooze his alarm until the kids wake up. So, night-before me needs to pray for God to help next-morning me get up.

How Does This Help Now?

We’re going through a momentous shift. And while the points I mentioned above apply even when we’re not going through a global pandemic, I need them even more now. In the face of a changing world, I need to remember our unchangeable God. What better way is there to do that than by reading His Word and responding in prayer?

In fact, let’s end this post with prayer.

Father, help us to pray. We’ve thought about method and schedule, and while those are important, we can’t begin to accomplish those without your help. And why would we try? Our efforts are feeble. Our strength is laughable. But your power is infinite. Lord, empower us in Christ by your Holy Spirit. You, oh Lord, are our mighty heavenly Father. May we, your children, hear from You in your Word, and talk to You in our prayers.

Even when we’re not going through a global pandemic.

Amen.

Footnotes

[1] Martin Luther, “The Way to Pray,” in Works, Vol. 43, trans. S. W. Singer (London, 1846), ed. Gustav Wiencke (Fortress Press, 1968) repr. in Archie Parrish, A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer, 5th ed. (Marietta, GA: Serve International, Inc. 2009). Kindle edition, loc 655

[2] Actually, to my shame, she usually schedules them. Love you, honey.

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Adam is a member of Coram Deo Church who serves on the music team and in the Kids Ministry. He lives in Bremerton with his wife Sarrah and their two children. He enjoys reading, writing, listening to podcasts and music, and playing guitar and games.

Coram Deo Church is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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