“I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you. And I will praise Your name forever and ever.” —Psalm 145:1-2
Anika Magwood, now a retired nurse of 30 years, remembers her faith being shaken after a little boy died in her arms in the 1980s.
Then, she was working as a missionary nurse during a measles outbreak in Africa. The 1980s was before widespread vaccination, and during that time, measles killed more than 2 million people annually, according to the World Health Organization.
“Children were dying in our arms at a rate of about eight an hour,” said Magwood, a chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. “It was horrible. … As a health care professional, you’re doing everything physically possible. Everything. Your mind is going a thousand miles an hour—am I forgetting anything that could save this life? But as a Christian nurse, it was, ‘Lord, bring to my memory anything I may be forgetting. Lord, help me to do this right.’”
Healthcare workers all over the globe are doing their absolute best in the face of COVID-19, and as the number of confirmed cases climb, so do the number of those in recovery. But any cause for celebration is muted because too many people aren’t making it. Those cases can trigger some raw questions in the hearts of professionals working tirelessly to help.
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Q. How should I pray during COVID-19?
A. Where to begin? There are so many things to pray for right now.
To start, pray for your leaders in your community, your state, and our country, regardless of politics or political affiliation. These are difficult days, and they need wisdom and prayer.
Pray for those on the front lines of the battle, from the healthcare workers to the scientists racing to find a vaccine (as well as the many, many others who are serving in a variety of ways, from stocking store shelves to delivering needed supplies).
Pray for provision and comfort for your family, friends and neighbors who are struggling. Even if the virus has not impacted someone you know physically, it has impacted many financially and psychologically.
Pray for your pastors. They have likely never led a flock through a trying time like this.
And, my friends, listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. You will be prompted to pray over many people and situations that weren’t even in your mind prior to your time of prayer.
Q. What good can possibly come from a disaster like COVID-19?
A. I know that many are hurting badly through this pandemic—physically, financially and emotionally.
COVID-19 is devastating on many levels. I’m not about to say that it’s good. However, as in past disasters, good can come from bad situations. In fact, “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).
One good thing that can come from this is a return to God. As a society we have strayed far from Him, turning our focus to the things of this world. Now that many worldly pursuits have slipped into the background, people are returning to God’s Word. Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures online of empty store shelves that once held rows of Bibles; it’s an amazing sight.
Another positive is that we can grow through difficult times such as this. Pain and tragedy are often some of the greatest teachers in life. No matter how bad the situation is—whether it’s a life-altering crisis or a sprained ankle—it teaches us that there’s something more important than the temporal things. Through these difficulties, we can understand God better and learn to rely on Him more, having our faith strengthened.
There seem to be more questions than answers as the science and medical communities do their best to fight the rapid spread of COVID-19. The pandemic also has triggered spiritual curiosity. Below, Will Graham, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, shares his response to one common question about the coronavirus outbreak.
Q. Why did God allow this global pandemic to happen?
A. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know, and I might not be able to give an answer that satisfies this question. With that said, we can learn a few things from the Bible.
First, to address a misconception head-on, disasters are not necessarily God’s judgment. In Job, for instance, we see great suffering befall a man who “was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, NKJV). In fact, his suffering was because he was so faithful, not the other way around.