Pandemic living: Prayer, no proximity
The church is by New Testament definition an assembly, which calls for those of us in the same fellowship to be together. Yet, we cannot be together while we live with the requirements of social distancing and a stay-at-home order. In one sense during this time, the church cannot fulfill what its name calls for, but that does not mean we cease to exist as a church.
With the blessing of technology, we are doing what we can to overcome our limitations and to display the truth we are a church family. We meet via an online video platform for worship, women’s Bible study and men’s theology breakfast. Those in the church receive a daily text from the pastor. We are able to remain in contact with each other through texts, emails and phone calls.
But we still don’t have proximity, and it may be a long time before we have it again in the normal sense of the word. In addition to the aforementioned practices, we have another important means of fostering unity and identity with others in our church: The gift of prayer.
When we intercede for one another, we are not only calling out to our common Father. We also are strengthening our memory of each other. We are considering the needs of each other, not just our own. We are recognizing the specific circumstances of each other. We are affectionately identifying with each other.
In prayer, we not only connect at some level with our forever family, but we ask the Savior of all of us to move mightily in behalf of each one with whom we share the same Christ, confession and covenant. We intercede for those whose life experience in this season is different than our own, whether it be the single, the young family or the senior citizen.
We also pray common prayers for our church. We are undoubtedly praying for protection from illness for everyone during this time. We are likely praying for grace, love, patience and perseverance for one another.
And during this season, all of us also have the opportunity to offer common prayers from Scripture for every fellow saint. We saw one of those prayers last Sunday when I preached on Ephesians 3:14-21, and I presented it as a request for Covenant Community Church at the close of the sermon. Here is how I prayed that prayer for our fellowship:
"According to the riches of Your glory may You grant the saints of Covenant Community Church to be strengthened with power through Your Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith — that they, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of God."
In addition to the apostle Paul’s petition in Ephesians 3, his prayers recorded in the New Testament include Ephesians 1:16-21, Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12.
When we pray God’s Word back to Him, we can be assured these prayers are His will for His people. They can be helpful guides to our prayers for each other -- including when we cannot be together.