The following article was originally written for the Gentle Reformation blog. Check it out for more great content by reformed writers and preachers.
It becomes us to be humble under humbling providences. – Matthew Henry
The providences connected to COVID-19 are humbling, whatever one’s opinions of the problems and solutions. Perhaps the greatest blessing of the pandemic is being humbled to the point of crying out in prayer to God more persistently.
I’ve counted many other blessings the Lord has given during this season personally and corporately. He’s given us a slower paced summer with more family time together. He’s increased our congregation’s appreciation for gathered worship. Since social distancing has pushed us outside, we’ve enjoyed the great outdoors more this summer than any other in recent memory. Weddings have become simpler and increasingly focused on the heart of marriage. The Lord has inspired greater creativity in us to navigate barriers to ministry. More people have heard the gospel via our livestream than ever before. I could go on. Yet, I think humble prayer by humbled people has been the most encouraging blessing from the Lord in these last five months.
The Lord promised Solomon that he would send humbling providences to drive his people to prayer:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:13–14)
In the congregation I serve, our humbling providences at the outset of the pandemic in March motivated a daily 7:00 a.m. Zoom prayer time led by a couple of our elders. The morning prayer time continues each day for a half-hour, mostly attended by adults, but the young people have also taken up prayer as a topic and special practice in their midweek meeting; they are being humbled under God’s hand too.
The more the morning prayer group has prayed, the more they’ve realized their inability. And so, they humble themselves for sin and seek God’s face. God’s people praise him for his being and thank him for his mighty acts. Members of the congregation are known and loved as they are prayed for by name as the prayer group works through the church directory. Covenant children are remembered. Unbelievers and prodigal children are pleaded for morning by morning. Missionaries are upheld and the nations are requested to be converted. People are interceded for in their work and calling in the world, and for those searching for work. Prayer for creativity, patience, joy, and faithfulness abound. Preachers, elders, deacons, committees, ministry leaders, students, teachers, the ailing, the lonely, the elderly, along with young and expectant mothers are taken to the throne of grace. The members of our state’s general assembly and other state and community leaders are covered in prayer. Many prayers are uttered for the end of the coronavirus, the destruction of Satan’s kingdom, the advance of the kingdom of grace, and the hastening of the kingdom of glory.
It’s a pretty helpless group that has been humbled under humbling providences. God hasn’t answered all of the prayers as prayed. There hasn’t been a massive local revival. The culture hasn’t been transformed, but the Lord has transformed the culture of many hearts – God has continued to humble his people. God has forgiven the sins of his people, he has brought healing, and he has answered many specific prayers.
As a pastor, I’m exceedingly grateful for those who humble themselves each day in prayer whether in a daily setting like this in a group or on their own. Matthew Henry was right, humility does look good on humbled people. If the Lord’s typical pattern holds true, future generations will be able to trace much of the good he may be pleased to do to these hours spent in prayer. But, even if the Lord is pleased to do nothing more, his people sound good as they harmonize their response to the experience of the pandemic with the Psalmist who wrote:
It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statues. – (Psalm 119:71)
James Faris, Pastor of Second RP in Indianapolis