These 5 Online Prayer Gatherings Are Seeking God for COVID-19 Solutions
A cross-section of Christian leaders including Rick Warren, Joni Eareckson Tada, John Piper, T.D. Jakes, and Mike Bickle are leading virtual prayer meetings.
“God is not the one who authorized this COVID-19 virus,” said Pastor Darrian Summerville of City Servants Church in Manassas, Virginia. “This is an evil that has been unleashed by the enemy. As people of prayer, we have to find the Lord in the plague for those who are on their beds in affliction.”
Over the past month, the coronavirus outbreak has altered daily life and halted church services coast to coast. Now Christian voices from diverse traditions and worship styles are mobilizing prayer to seek God for solutions.
Award-winning songwriter Michael W. Smith has been leading worship songs from his home studio in Franklin, Tennessee. Churches across Atlanta and the Chicagoland area have linked together to intercede for their cities. And the Southern Baptist Convention has planned an hour-long Good Friday prayer service.
As a local pastor connected nationally, Summerville has been involved in several efforts to respond to the crisis. He urges leaders not to continue ‘business as usual.’
“In reality, we are in a day of crisis and the outbreak of a plague,” said Summerville in a phone interview. “We’re not fearful, but there is a certain urgency to discern the times. This season came to cause there to be a shift in how we’ve been doing things.”
Lapsed Believers Turn to Prayer During Crisis
Summerville, who is raising four children with his wife Greta, has been involved in the global prayer movement for over 15 years. He has lately transitioned into full-time ministry through City Servants Church as well as prayer ministry Moravian Watch.
Regarding the purpose of prayer during a crisis, he has an answer at the ready.
“Some people ask, Why should we pray if God allowed this to happen? Recall that God allowed a storm to come when his son was asleep in the boat,” said Summerville, referring to the Gospel of Mark.
“Then Jesus stepped in to his authority and rebuked the storm. Today, we should pray because God has given us great authority.”
Pew Research reports that 55 percent of all Americans have recently prayed for an end to the spread of coronavirus. It included a significant measure of lapsed believers.
However, several media outlets have stressed supposed conflicts between faith and science. One recent New York Times headline read: ‘The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals.’
For his part, Summerville sees the two as compatible. “The Bible doesn’t say that only the church belongs to the Lord,” he said. “Psalm 24 says: The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.
“Scientific knowledge shows us how the natural world is a witness of him,” he continued.
“We should be praying for the medical science community, who are working to discover new ways to combat diseases. What they’re doing is part of the Lord’s creation — a benefit to the earth and all of us who dwell here.”
Such themes were echoed often in virtual prayer meetings called by leading Christian voices. Hours of coronavirus-specific prayer services are now available online.
Prayers Rising Across the Earth
1. Easter Pastor Prayer Gathering with Rick Warren
Churches across the globe are grappling with the difficulty of Easter services being required to take place via the internet. In response to this lament, Pastor Rick Warren brought together an international group of leaders to encourage the broader Body of Christ.
Voices including Hillsong global pastor Brian Houston, worship leader Chris Tomlin, Pastor T.D. Jakes and his wife Serita, and Pastor Laurent Mbanda in Rwanda came together in an online service released Monday.
“We’re living at a time of huge crisis and tragedy brought on by the coronavirus,” said Nicky Gumbel, longtime Alpha Course leader. “But the message of the Gospel is that God took the greatest tragedy of all time — the Cross — and turned it into a message of resurrection. This message is more relevant than ever.”
2. Clean: A National Day of Humility led by Civil Righteousness
A pastor and community leader in Ferguson, Missouri, Jonathan Tremaine Thomas was seized by how hand-washing and sanitation have become national obsessions. But what of the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on “the washing of the Word”?
With 80 leaders worldwide connected to the International House of Prayer-Kansas City (IHOP-KC), Antioch Churches, and other movements, Thomas strategized a 12-hour time of consecration. It included six hours of Scripture reading, in concert with three hours of prayer. Led by Michael W. Smith, Jon Thurlow, Maryanne J. George, and others, three hours of worship were interspersed throughout. Summerville facilitated the final hours of the day-long prayer gathering.
Diversity of Voices, Traditions
3. A Day to Fast and Pray led by The Gospel Coalition
On Saturday, Reformed churches linked through The Gospel Coalition came together for A Day to Fast and Pray. Bethlehem Seminary president John Piper along with Pastor Kevin DeYoung, disability rights advocate Joni Eareckson Tada, and others led prayer following a day of fasting. Worship artists Keith and Kristyn Getty as well as Shane & Shane led songs of praise.
“Today, we’re seeing the Body of Christ unite across denominations and categories,” said Summerville. “This is not a time to pay attention to the minors and personal preferences. To come and agree together on a thing, and see much accomplished, that’s really what prayer is.”
4. 21 Days of Prayer led by America Prays
Sometimes continuous prayer happens in smaller segments. America Prays based in Albuquerque, New Mexico seeks to help churches coordinate “covering their city in unceasing prayer.” Congregations adopt a day of the month to pray, in tandem with other local churches.
During the current crisis, ministry founders Brian and Mercy Alarid have hosted pastors, ministry leaders — and even Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt — to lead people in specific prayers.
Believing for ‘Miracle’ Outcomes
5. Passover: Holy Alignment led by Revive Israel
Even as Holy Week coincides with an expected peak of the national COVID-19 outbreak, another concurrent event marks religious calendars. Easter and Passover overlap this year, leading Christian voices to call for celebrating a “holy alignment.”
On Tuesday morning, Messianic ministry Revive Israel will host prayer leaders including Toronto pastor John Arnott, IHOP-KC director Mike Bickle, Heidi Baker of Iris Global, author Lou Engle, and others in a concert of prayer and worship.
When people are in crisis, Summerville contends praying with faith can lead to what he calls “fringe benefits.” He explains: “Salvations are at stake when people see the hand of God and his power. We could see God work in miracles, signs, and wonders following our prayers.”
He and other leaders emphasize that humility and repentance are first steps in their intercession for the nation. “The church is responsible to bow its heart before the Lord and see if he would not relent,” he said.
A graduate of the University of Colorado, Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream and The Federalist. Find him on Twitter and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.