LORD, you are great.
You were great before the word ‘coronavirus’ was ever a part of the average person’s vocabulary, have been great throughout this ordeal, and will continue to be great long after the COVID-19 dust has settled. That’s because you are the holy, eternal, infinite, unchanging God. Nothing that happens in our world adds to or takes away from your greatness, because you are transcendent – wholly other – than creation. You always have been, are now, and always will be greater than we can comprehend. You are three in one – Father, Son, and Spirit – redeemer, judge, Lord, and king.
LORD, thank you.
You have kept our church safe from countless harms that could have come our way in our time apart. You have taken care of us financially, inspiring your people to continue giving. You have taken care of us relationally, helping us find ways to stay connected even as most of us have gone months without seeing each other. You have taken care of us spiritually, giving opportunities to pray, spend time in your Word, take Communion, hear sermons, memorize Scripture, sing songs of praise, and read devotions. You have taken care of us physically; the few PVCC folks who have gotten the coronavirus have recovered. We thank you for these blessings; we didn’t deserve any of them before, don’t now, and won’t moving forward. Even as we have committed sins, wrestled with frustrations, and perhaps doubted your sovereignty, goodness, or both – through this experience, you have been kind to us.
LORD, comfort us.
While our church has made it this far relatively unscathed, we know there has been suffering. Since we last worshiped together, brothers and sisters have lost jobs, mourned the deaths of loved ones, faced career uncertainty, worried about sick friends and family, been anxious doing even the simplest of errands, sat at home alone, worked to the point of exhaustion, put their health at risk for the sake of others, and cancelled highly anticipated plans. Many of us have made painful sacrifices; I’m confident that all of us have had SOMETHING important taken from us. Help us find comfort and peace in you, even when we can’t understand why this happened.
LORD, give us humility.
Help us put the interests of others ahead of our own, even when we’re itching to exercise our rights. Help us love and serve each other, even when we disagree about what should happen next. Help us genuinely listen to those around us, rather than twisting every conversation into a debate. Help us pray for and honor our local, state, and national leaders appropriately, even if or when they’ve dropped the ball. Help us trust our church leaders, even though they are fallible.
LORD, sustain us.
With whatever could come next – whether it’s pushing through a slight, mask-induced headache near the end of the service, coming to grips with the possibility of another lockdown in the fall, or pressing on through the (still yet to be fully felt) economic ripple effects of the virus – sustain us. Strengthen us to endure whatever could come next, in terms of our personal lives, our family lives, or the life of our church. Help our church continue to do ministry, even when we can’t plan much of anything past next week.
LORD, protect us.
There are very real risks to having an in-person worship service again. The stories we read about choirs getting sick, or churches being the place where the virus spread are scary. We don’t want to take those stories lightly, and don’t want to naively or ignorantly assume that “it can’t happen to us”. However, at the same time, we recognize our need to gather again, and pray that the reopening guidance from the powers that be would not put us in harm’s way. We ask that the seemingly endless precautions we’ve put in place would have a good effect; but we also realize that there are risks to having any large group of people indoors that we can’t mitigate. We have no desire to brashly or sinfully “put (you) to the test” by placing ourselves in danger, and then arrogantly expecting you to swoop in at the last minute and save us from our own foolishness – but we feel no shame in asking you to protect us as we gather in a way that (we hope) is safe and responsible.
LORD, give us wisdom.
Give us wisdom about what should change, and what shouldn’t change. Help us retain the good lessons these past three months have taught us, rather than instantly forgetting everything we learned once things are “back to normal”. Help us strike the right balance between not living hunkered down in fear for the rest of our days – but also not acting recklessly.
LORD, be with those who will not be present with us on Sunday.
Whether it’s someone who was brand new to the church when this whole thing started, never had time to really build strong relationships, and as a result, fell off the radar; or someone who used this time away to covertly cut ties with our church; or someone who stays home because they are high-risk, over the age of 65, or simply not yet comfortable coming to church – be with those who will not be with us, wherever they are. And for those who join in via livestream, I pray that we can serve them well with all our shiny new contraptions – and that our technical hiccups would be limited and minor.
LORD, give us patience.
Almost everything on Sunday, May 31 will be different than it was on Sunday, March 8. The furniture will be arranged differently. The order of service will be changed. Communion and Offering may be awkward. There may be a “walking on eggshells” atmosphere in the building that could encroach on the joyful reunion we all pictured. We’ll want to hug, shake hands, and linger, because we love each other (which is a good problem to have). We can’t do all these things yet, and the going could be rough for a while; but we ask that you give us patience.
LORD, be with our kids.
Many of them will not understand why they can’t go to their classrooms, why they can’t run laps around the building with their friends, and why they can’t play foosball in the Youth room. Many of them will be loud, fidgety, uncomfortable, cranky, and bored during the service. We ask you to help them, help their parents, and help our church family be understanding, gracious, and forgiving.
LORD, I’m not sure what else there is to pray about; surely there are people, needs, and concerns that I’m forgetting. But I take comfort in knowing that you see us, you know us, and you love us. Whatever “reopening” looks like, or how long it takes – for our church, our community, our state, our nation, and our world – we trust you through it. If you can handle saving us from our sins at the cross, you can handle getting us through the ups and downs of life during and after the terror of COVID-19.
Help us trust you. And thank you that because who Christ is, and what Christ has done for us, we can approach you with prayers like this one.