We are a nation of rugged and proud problem solvers. Over 10 years ago a survey in Newsweek of Christians found that while 84% believed that God answered prayers, less than 25% prayed daily. Perhaps we too have been shaped more by our culture than by the promises in the Bible about the power of prayer. All of us are facing the limits of our “problem solving” as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising deaths, shortages of medical equipment, changing guidance on the use of face masks, rising unemployment and the spread of the disease have caused us to face our own human limitations, as well as our mortality.
So what difference could prayer make for a time such as this?
When theologian Reinhold Niebhur wrote The Serenity Prayer, he wrote it not as an antidote to the addiction of alcoholism, but rather as a response to the barbaric evil of Nazi Germany that threatened civilization itself during WWII. Like us, he was facing an evil beyond his control. Many of us are familiar with the shortened version of the prayer that is used in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. But here is the full version of The Serenity Prayer:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
We commend this full version of The Serenity Prayer to you and your family, loved ones, friends and congregation as a prayer for the time we are in right now. In less than a week, we will observe Good Friday, one of the two days Anglicans observe as special or holy days of prayer and fasting. To that end, we also commend to you the following announcement regarding a Call for a Day of Prayer and Fasting—Good Friday April 10, 2020:
The whole world is in the throes of a coronavirus pandemic that is spreading death, illness, economic turmoil, unemployment, isolation, panic, and fear. In such desperate times, the people of God should humble themselves and pray to their almighty God for his grace, mercy, and love to heal us, restore us, and relieve us from this crushing burden of disease.
In response to the ravages of this historic plague, this call for prayer and fasting is an historic, ecumenical event because the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) have united for the first time to pray for God’s mercy and healing.
The Call: For all believers in Christ in the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) to set aside Good Friday, April 10, as a day of prayer and fasting to cry out for God’s help in addition to a Holy Day of worship.
The goal is for all 550,000 members of these three churches to have the opportunity to participate. Other denominations are aware of the planning for this event and have asked to be invited. This notice includes the following attached resources: 1) A Guide to Prayer and Fasting by The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, 2) A Guide to Prayer and Fasting by Dr. Richard Pratt, President of Third Millennium Ministries, and 3) A Suggested Prayer List
Archbishop Beach says, “Good Friday is one of the two days of prayer and fasting that all Anglicans are commended to observe. This Good Friday, April 10, is an especially appropriate time for everyone in the Anglican Church in North America to join with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters in Christ in this historic call to prayer and fasting. The Solemn Collects from our own Liturgy for Good Friday (BCP 2019 pgs. 566-571) are a helpful guide for prayer on this day.”
You can find the full version of the Call here: http://www.anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/2013 We are also pleased to report that the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO) and the Associate Reformed Church (ARP) have asked to join in this historic Good Friday of Prayer and fasting for our nation. As Anglicans, we now have the privilege of praying and fasting with over 600,000 brothers and sisters in Christ on Good Friday
Would you please share this Call with your church and friends this Sunday? If you are clergy, would you please share this before your live-streamed or pre-recorded service/sermon for Palm Sunday? If you are other than clergy and reading this, would you please bring this to the attention of your Rector, Associate or Deacon?
Here are some other prayer resources we commend to you as we move into Holy Week:
- An Explanation of Spiritual Communion: aka “The Sacrament of Desire.” In this brief 7 minute video Archbishop emeritus and VP of the American Anglican Council, ++Robert Duncan how to receive communion in your heart when it is impossible to receive physically by virtue of social distancing. Comprehensive, pastoral and practical, Archbishop Duncan explains why this is a practice for our times now, and how it has always been for Christians unable to receive physically because they are on their deathbed, going into battle, imprisoned, persecuted or otherwise prevented from receiving in person. You can find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNRDjFwioKo&feature=youtu.be
- The 8@8 Global Prayer Initiative: Organized by AAC Trustee Mrs. Willa Kane and others, this website, FB and their emails enable people in every time zone of the world to pause for 8 minutes at 8pm to pray for the world, our nation our family and friends in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. You will find scriptures, questions to guide your prayers, helpful devotions and inspiring worship to guide your daily 8 minutes of prayer. In less than two weeks this movement has grown to 12,000 followers. You can find a description of the initiative here: https://americananglican.org/featured/eight-at-eight-a-global-prayer-initiative/ and the link to the website here: https://8at8pm.org .
- A Liturgy during a Pandemic: With thanks and permission from the author, the Rev. Porter Taylor (ACNA Priest and Scholar), who has developed these prayers for use at home during this time of uncertainty and fear due to COVID-19. One person may read the portions in regular font and everyone responds together for italicized portions. It may also be read by one person. This is meant to be used at any time of the day, or multiple times a day, if so desired. You can find the description here: https://porterctaylor.com/2020/03/16/a-liturgy-during-a-pandemic/ and download the prayers for your own and family use from here: https://porterctaylordotcom.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/a-liturgy-during-a-pandemic-pct-final.pdf
Finally, we commend these scriptures to you, in your prayers, on how prayer makes a difference in such a time as this:
- Prayer changes us: Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” Psalm 34:4: “I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
- Prayer gives wisdom as we face decisions: Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths.” James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously, without finding fault.”
- Prayer is access to and intimacy with God: Luke 11:1-2: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him ‘LORD, teach us to pray…’. Jesus said to them, ‘When you pray say ‘Father [Abba—meaning ‘dear daddy’]…’”
- And in such intimacy, God will answer our prayers: John 16:23: “Jesus said ‘I tell you the truth, the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…” I John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (emphasis added)
So dear friends, Let Us Pray….