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Prayers for a time of sickness

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Posted by Lee Gatiss , 25 Mar 2020

Lee Gatiss shares some prayers that we can all use during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Prayer is the cry of a heart to God, through our merciful Lord, Jesus Christ. The heartfelt, spontaneous prayer of Christians is always acceptable to God. But sometimes it is also helpful to have words ready to pray at particular moments. So this is a small collection of some ready-made words which you might want to consider using or adapting (it’s not really “stealing”!) during these unusual days. In turbulent times the simplest things are often the best anchor, which is why I am sharing a daily 2 minute video of a brief reading and some prayers on our YouTube channel each weekday at the moment. Some of the prayers I am using there are also below.

I have written a “corona collect” which several churches have already started using, and which we are praying regularly as a family.

Heavenly Father, our ever-present help in trouble, our fortress and our God: calm the anxious fears of all who turn to you; give strength and healing to those who are sick, and courage and skill to those who care for them; grant wisdom and clarity to those in authority; and humble us all to call upon you that we may be saved not only in this life, but also for that which is to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Here are some more prayers, focusing on the impact of the virus and our response to it, which may be useful:

Loving heavenly Father, at this time of great uncertainty in our country and around the world, we pray that people would turn to you for stability and comfort. We pray particularly for those who don’t yet know Jesus, that through some means in the midst of all that is happening they would hear the good news of him. Grant them repentance and a knowledge of the truth, that they may know you and the secure joy of eternal life in him. For we ask in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Our gracious Father, thank you for all those working in health care, and especially those in our congregation who are serving the community within the NHS and public health bodies. Grant them, and all who work in essential services, protection and strength for each day’s challenges, and to work with skill and patience. We also pray for the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary, and the chief medical and scientific officers that they and those who work with them will have wisdom and insight sufficient for the decisions they need to make at this difficult time. We ask in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Sovereign Lord, please humble us all under your mighty hand, that we may use the opportunities given to us now for reflection, repentance, and thanksgiving for all the good things you have given us but which we often take for granted. Throughout these strange days, please fix our hearts on heaven and our minds on pleasing you in everything, so that whatever the outcome we may rest secure in Christ, in whose name we pray all these things, Amen.

Lord God, our heavenly Father, the healer of nations and judge of all: give us grace to humble ourselves under your mighty hand throughout this time of anxiety and discomfort. In your anger, remember mercy, not giving to us all we deserve for our many sins, but strengthening us to repent and recover from all we must endure. For we ask in the name of our precious Saviour, Jesus Christ, who bore our sicknesses and carried our sorrows that we might experience new life in the Spirit, Amen.

There are also number of prayers and thanksgivings that are suitable in Church Society’s An English Prayer Book, all of which is online.

O Lord, look down from heaven, and visit and relieve those who are ill. Look upon them with mercy; comfort them; give them a sure confidence in you; defend them from the attacks of the evil one; and keep them in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, you are a strong tower to all who put their trust in you: may those who suffer find you their defence; and may they know and feel that there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom and through whom we may receive health and salvation, except the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty and eternal God, have mercy on those who are sick. In their days of weakness strengthen their faith, lead them to repentance, and teach them to live the rest of their lives in your fear and to your glory, so that at the last they may live with you in life eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, during your earthly ministry you healed the sick: look with favour on your servants… who are ill at this time. Give wisdom and insight to those who care for them; and, if it be your will, restore them to health, so that they may live to praise you for your goodness and grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Heavenly Father, you know the cares and fears of your children: grant that your servant N will remember that your care for your people is never in doubt; teach him to cast all his cares on you; give him quietness of mind; and fill him with your peace which passes all understanding; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This one, on the shortness of life, is also very good:

Eternal and loving Lord, teach us to remember that life is short and to seek after heavenly wisdom. Grant that, though our bodies grow weak, we may increase in spiritual strength; so that, trusting ourselves to your care and mercy, we may accept your will and at the last enter into the joy of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As is this for those in any kind of need:

We most humbly beseech you, O Lord, to comfort and strengthen all those who in this life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity; [and especially we pray for…]. And we bless your holy name for all your servants who have died in your faith and fear. Give us grace to follow their good examples so that with them we may inherit your eternal kingdom. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only mediator and advocate. [Amen.]

Adam Young’s blogpost from a few years ago on the prayers in the Book of Common Prayer and what they teach us about God’s use of sickness and other adversities, is well worth pondering. This prayer from the BCP itself was written at a time when “sweating sickness” was afflicting the country:

O Almighty God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and also in the time of King David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest: have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality, that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angell to cease from punishing: so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Many of these prayers or “collects” take about 20 seconds to pray, and so could be said while washing your hands for the mandatory time! Make them into a public health notice or personal reminder using this fun online tool.

In challenging times, however, it is often the simplest things which are best. So why not also pray:

Lord, please save us from this plague.

I pray that several times a day at the moment. Or for something liturgical, here’s a responsive one that two or more can pray together:

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.

Of course, we need to continue to pray for all the usual things too: for those in authority, for pastors, for teachers, for revival, for the harvest and food production and distribution, for the weak and vulnerable. But the prayers above may be of particular use to us all in the weeks ahead.

Dr Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society

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