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Prayers for a Time of Pandemic

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Although the news changes day by day, if not hour by hour, we are still people in a pandemic. Some churches that had returned to in-person worship are now returning to virtual only. News of a vaccine gives us hope, but the logistics of the administration of it to the majority of the population seems insurmountable. We hardly know when relief will come. And what our society, what our faith life will look like is a matter of great speculation and confusion. We are still somewhat lost in a confusing world, in a confusing time.

All of this is to say that we still need prayers. We still need words to say that give voice to our confusion, to our lament, and to our hope. Dr. Safiyah Fosua has been shepherding the Africana Worship project for more than twenty years, and she is still as excited about giving these writers and preachers a voice. Here, with some introduction to the writers, we present these prayers as opportunities for individuals and church communities to speak to this moment, to pray together in hope.

So, let us pray.

Prayers for Such a Time as This (November 2020)

Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton

Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton is an Elder in Full Connection in The United Methodist Church. As Lead Editor of African American Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House, she created Bible studies, Christian educational programming, and edited music resources such as Zion Still Sings: For Every Generation (seventeen and a half years). She is currently a pastor and Director/Campus Minister of the Wesley Foundation at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

#1 Advent by Marilyn E. Thornton, used by permission

The people are walking in darkness, Lord.
The darkness of pestilence and disease
The darkness of insouciance and neglect
A dark age of scientific disdain
A dark age of deliberate ignorance
A dark age of unproven magic
A dark age of believed lies.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.
Shine your light and brighten our way
That the people may come out of the darkness
To receive the oil of healing and wholeness
To experience empathy and care
A new age of curiosity and discovery
A new age of enlightenment
A new age of God’s revelations
An age wherein the people prefer your Truth to any lie.
And may Thy Will be done. Amen.

#2 A Plea of the Lonely by Marilyn E. Thornton, used by permission

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.
Touch me and make me whole.
Blow your breath and I shall breathe.
Cleanse me and my blood will flow free.

As you stitched me together in my mother’s womb,
O Lord, stitch together my tattered lungs.
As you have counted every hair on my head,
Help me feel your presence in this hospital bed.

Because I am alone, dear God, only vaguely aware
Of nurses and doctors in the room
My own piteous cries, I cannot hear
But you hear me, Jesus, so please come soon
To heal me, O Lord, that I may be healed . . .

#3 Lament by Marilyn E. Thornton, used by permission

Reader 1

What does it mean to be non-essential?
Does it mean that you do not matter?
That your work can be eliminated . . .
Life will go on without what you do . . .
What you do is not necessary?

The People

That is sure what it feels like.

Reader 2

To be essential must mean the opposite.
What I do matters to everyone, all the time.
It cannot go away.
Life may stop if I stop.
Folks need what I do.

The People

I am not sure that they need me.

Reader 2

Why do I feel so unappreciated?
So exhausted and misused?
I am so underpaid . . .
So exposed and at risk.
Why am I so in need of the essentials?

The People

If I stay home, my household will surely suffer.

Readers 1 and 2

I turn to you, O Lord, for justice.
For you to catch me if I should fall.
The essence of who I am is more than the essentials of this world.
More than hoarded toilet paper or delivered goods.
More than a job lost or gained.

The People

For I remember that I am your child.

ALL

We are ALL your children.

#4 Dark Age Stories by Marilyn E. Thornton, used by permission

Reader 1

They waited outside in the car
While their father suffered and died.
Their mother alone by his side;
Sisters and brothers grieved from afar.

The People

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

Reader 2

Once he went in, he could not come out
As his partner tried to deliver their child.
Her body looked ravaged and defiled.
He could not raise the baby, there was no doubt.

The People

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

Reader 3

She went to the hospital on a certain date.
They would not let her in, not sick enough.
Not sick enough to receive care and love.
When she came back, it was too late.

The People

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

Reader 4

I can’t find a vein; I can’t find a vein!
Intubate before the airway closes down.
My PPE is dirty; I don’t have a gown.
Another life lost! Another death gained!

The People

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.
Have mercy on those who struggle with death.
Have mercy on those who struggle with breath.
Have mercy on those who need relief.
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

ALL

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer during COVID

Joseph W. Daniels, Jr.

Joseph W. Daniels, Jr. is lead pastor of Emory United Methodist Church and the “The Emory Fellowship” in Washington, D.C.

Our Lord and our God:

We humbly come before you this morning in the strong name of Jesus, recognizing that you are the God of all possibilities. We greet you in this moment of great need this morning, remembering that you are our Savior who taught us to come to you when we are weak and heavy ladened, and you will grant us rest. Well, Lord, we come to you weak and heavy, burdened by everything that is COVID-19. Please hear our voices and give us rest.

We are family members who have lost loved ones near and dear to the virus. We are friends who’ve lost close companions to this sickness. We are individuals who’ve tested positive, seeking to weather the shame of it all, let alone get well. We are weak and we are burdened. Please hear our voices, Lord, and give us rest.

We are those working the front lines while others stay home. We are healthcare workers treating sickness and seeing death every day. We are grocery and drug store workers nervous about going to work. We are teachers exhausted from virtual learning, terrified from having to give instruction in person. We are weak and we are burdened. Please hear our voices, Jesus, and give us rest.

We are parents, juggling the demands of our virtual or in-person job, while living with the pressures of keeping our kids engaged with virtual education. We are parents sending our kids to school, worried about safety in the classroom. We are youth, caught up in the middle of it all, separated from school and friends, trying to do our best, worn out and frustrated by it all. We are those who are by ourselves, lonely and depressed, in need of just a touch. We are weak and we are burdened. Please hear our voices, God, and give us rest.

Please hear our voices this morning, Abba. We confess our sins at the root of all of this. Would you hear our pleas for healing, feel our yearnings for forgiveness, rejoice in our pleas for restoration? We come unto you, Lord, asking for comfort in loss, healing in illness, protection from this plague, the termination of this pandemic. We come unto you, Lord. For you alone can comfort. You alone can heal. You alone can provide strength. You alone can save. You alone can deliver. Please hear our voices, O Lord. You alone can give us rest. And you will.

Please hear our voices, Jesus. We hear you. And we trust you, as we await your mercies and thank God for your grace. AMEN.

God, You Have Been Our Help

Curry Butler

Rev. Curry F. Butler, Jr is an ordained deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Currently, Rev. Butler is completing his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

God, you have been our help in ages past, and you are our hope for years to come.

This day, we come giving you thanks for all that you have done, are doing, and are going to do.
You have shielded us and have been our refuge in this time of uncertainty.

Our nation is torn
by social injustices,
political bias,
and a growing pandemic called the coronavirus.

Our world is left pointing the finger and playing the blame game.
Our loved ones are sick, and some have crossed over the Jordan River.
Anxiety is at an all-time high.

We need you to be a heart-fixer and a mind-regulator.
We need you to be a soothing salve healing our land and giving us peace.
We know that you are able and we know that you can.
We are confident in you.

It is in your Son, Jesus’ name that we pray.
Amen.

A Collection of Short Prayers

Darlene A. Moore

Darlene A. Moore is a pastor, writer, and artist from Mandeville, Louisiana. She has been an elder in the Louisiana Annual Conference since 1993 and is married to Brick McFall. Rev. Moore is the author of Prayers for Married Couples, Vols. 1 & 2, (Xlibris, 2019). Darlene loves to travel, walk, cook, read, and watch sunrises.

Most Loving God, today, I/we find ourselves saying a little prayer, studying a lot of your Holy Word, and standing often on your promises. People of color are dying, and we need you now, God! We pray, O God, in the vastness of your power that you help the forgotten, vulnerable, and victimized soon.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Most Loving God, I/we petition you, O Good God, to help all frontline workers and their families. God, I/we ask you to keep them and their families, safe, healthy, and COVID-19 free. God, I/we need you to protect families, friends, finances, and faith. I/we also pray, God, that you keep the frontline workers healthy, financially stable, and encouraged. Please God, help those in hospitals and those who are hurting to find HEALING!

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Way-making God, we pray in earnest that you, Almighty God, will grant us good and restful sleep daily. We also pray for gainful, needed employment and essential, vital faith in Jesus, the Way Maker, as we battle COVID-19. O God, help families avoid discouragement and couples avoid divorce. Please keep us, lest our minds become suicidal or our homes become violent. We thank you in advance and affirm your goodness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Most Present God, we your people around the globe need you. We need your presence, peace, power, protection, and promises. In fact, we need you daily and in everything we do during this COVID-19 era.

O God help us all.

God, Black Lives Matter, and many seem to not have taken the matter of health disparity seriously prior to COVID. We are dying spiritually and financially, and our bodies are not well. We are crying out and convinced, that you, O God, can right all wrongs and heal the sick.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

COVID-19 Crisis Prayers

God Heals the Brokenhearted

By Stephon Carlisle Void

Stephon Void is a Certified Lay Servant in the South Carolina Annual Conference and is a member of New Covenant United Methodist Church in Bowman, South Carolina. He is currently a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Technician and facilities manager at Claflin University.

God heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds (Psalm 147:3, CEB)

God, you sent us medical doctors, nurses, med techs, sanitation workers, and first responders to be extensions of your healing hands. We thank you for their gifts and their sacrifice. All over the world, these brave souls are hurting because of all of the losses they have seen. Shift after shift, they have done all that they could to heal, yet some of their patients don’t make it home. They are tired. They are burned out. They are brokenhearted. They leave their place of work and have to live in a makeshift room or an uninviting hotel room. They can see their family only through Zoom, Teams, or FaceTime. Lord, they are wounded. They are exhausted. They feel alone. Their hearts are aching.

We ask that you refresh their minds. Ignite a fire in their souls. Please pour out a shower of love to revive their wounded and aching hearts. They are your vessels of hope. They are your warriors called to fight an unyielding enemy. Grant them the courage to face another long shift. Give them the strength and wisdom to fight for us. Lord, heal their broken hearts. Lord, comfort them. Reassure them that you are with them always.

In Your Name, we pray, Amen.

Prayer on Purpose

By Linda Furtado

Linda Furtado currently serves as the Minister of Worship, Arts, and Media at McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Linda, a ministry leader in the Tennessee Annual Conference, is married to the Rev. Jefferson M. Furtado and mother of three school-age daughters, Sueli, Cintia, and Emma.

Today we pray on P.U.R.P.O.S.E.

We PRAY because we know that prayer is powerful.
We UNWIND our own thoughts as we let go of what we think should be and lean on your Word.
We REFLECT on all that is happening around us, knowing that you are speaking in the storms of life.
We PEN our prayers in texts, comments, posts, and journals as we put words to our hopes in you.
We OUTLINE our thoughts, making each line, each moment, and each thought count as we see your light through it all in Mind, Body, Spirit, Within, and in Others.
We SHARE with others, calling to those we love, sharing the good news with those we meet, testifying about the God we know in our praise and thanksgiving, even now.
We END this prayer, knowing that our prayers are just the beginning as we listen for your guidance as we press on by faith.

Liberate our minds,
Motivate us to do our part,
And press on our hearts to not give up on you and on one another.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.

God, Our Hope in Tough Times

By Linda Furtado

Lord, we thank you,
for bringing hope in these tough times.

We praise you,
through it all because you are so good and love us so much.

We ask of you,
health and healing as people in need and as a world in grief.

We confess to you,
that we haven't been perfect examples of taking good care of ourselves and others.

Forgive us,
even as we know we could have done better in response to the spread of COVID.

Provide for us,
even as we have been self-centered time and again in our spending and lack of care for others.

Love on us,
even as we fall short of loving ourselves and others
amidst anxiety in solitude and carelessness in distancing.

Grace us,
with more than we deserve.
Even as we try to avoid accountability for our actions and inactions.

Help us,
remember that this is a season about us all,
people created to be together,
people who need one another,
people who can't be who we are made to be without each other's help.

As we work toward your preferred present and future for us all,
free from worry, anxiety, and fear.
It is good to know that we are always held in your loving arms.
Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Stuck in the Waiting Room

By Safiyah Fosua

Safiyah Fosua is a retired associate professor of the Wesley Seminary of Marion, Indiana, and a retired elder from the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Safiyah was the associate editor of the first Africana Worship Book series, has authored several books, and appears in several multi-author publications. She is married to the Rev. Dr. Kwasi Kena.

Here we are again,
Engaged in the eerie silence of waiting.
Waiting in our homes,
Only venturing outside among others with the
Blood-on-our-doorposts mask required for egress.
Waiting, like the paralytic
For the moving of unseen waters.
Waiting,
Waiting,
Waiting,
Sleeping, and rising to wait some more.

Never quite knowing when the bad dream will end,
And hoping at dream’s end that by some miracle
We might wake to the company of friends
Stolen in the mist, disappeared,
Unmourned at their burial
With no opportunity to don my one good black dress
And join the funeral march with the family
Because they already had more than the restricted ten breathing bodies
Closer to the Dearly Departed, than I.

Stuck in a Groundhog Day loop of waiting,
Wondering how others are bearing the wait,
The wait for test results, some of them COVID, most of them anxious.
The wait on the front line in Louisville, Portland, or some untelevised city,
Teachers and nurses waiting,
Or my neighbors, in the unemployment line
And the long line for food
That stretches around the block and might just close before they get to her.
(And you, praying that the landlord won’t set out your stuff before you get back with a fistful of dollars.)
A Groundhog Day repeat that resets at dawn tomorrow.

My mind drifts to thoughts of how my Cloud of Witness Ancestors waited
Waited in overcrowded, underfurnished shacks for some Harriet Tubman or Nat Turner to appear.
Waited for Death himself to wake them from the bad dreams they were living and take them back home.
How Emancipation slaves in Texas waited on a New Years’ Eve Watchnight that stretched all the way to Juneteenth Day.
I am only one great-grandmother removed from that wait.

When I come to myself, I am back in my COVID-free cave,
Still waiting, in this wait.
No one knows how long it might be.
Lord, please sit alongside us all in the dust and the ashes,
As we wait.
Amen.

Isaiah 40:31 NRSV—but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

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