Dear Church in Quarantine:
The coronavirus could cause between 100,000 and 200,000 U.S. deaths even with the current social distancing guidelines in place, according to Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert. Without such drastic measures, some experts say over 2 million American lives could be lost to the virus.
Stories of heroic efforts by overwhelmed doctors and nurses in hospitals around the world read like war time accounts, full of chaos, improvisation, equipment shortages, dead bodies being hauled away in semi-truck trailers. President Trump is embracing the role of a “war time president.” This is a war against an invisible enemy, and the battle is still escalating in intensity—expected to reach its worst for the U.S. around Easter.
All of this has Christ’s army—his worldwide church—and her leaders asking, “What are we to be doing during this time of global crisis? How much can we even do while quarantined inside our homes?” A text I shared at our midweek virtual House Church gathering provides people of faith with our war time marching orders.
In Exodus 17, Moses is trying to lead the Israelites to victory in their own battle against the Amalekites, which we will replace with our current enemy the Coronavirus for added effect:
8While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the [Coronavirus] attacked them. 9Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight [the Coronavirus] for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.” 10So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the [Coronavirus]. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the [Coronavirus] gained the advantage. 12Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13As a result, Joshua overcame the [Coronavirus] in battle. (Exod 17:8-13)
The lesson for us in this text is simple yet an urgent one. Those of us who are not on the front lines like Joshua fighting this virus with first responders, doctors and nurses, and government leaders, need to follow Moses up Prayer Mountain and lift up not a staff but holy prayers until the sun eventually sets on this deadly pandemic.
Beloved, the Scriptures promise that “the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective” (James 5:16) and that things really hang in the balance depending on whether or not God’s people pray. C. Peter Wagner says:
“God’s purpose may be thwarted or it may be accomplished depending, to one degree or another, on the obedience of His people and their willingness to use the weapons of spiritual warfare that He has provided. God is powerful enough to win any battle, but He has designed things so that the release of His power at a given moment of time often is contingent upon the decisions and the actions of His people. A principle weapon of spiritual warfare is prayer. Not just routine or mediocre prayer, but prayer powerful enough to move God’s hand in order to determine the destiny of a whole nation.”
This is our greatest weapon and we need to engage in it in community, holding one another’s arms up like Aaron and Hur when we begin to grow weary and need to “tap out” for a while. Those heroes on the frontlines are depending on us to do our part, and cover them in prayer for protection and endurance. (Join our MainStreet community in prayer each Wednesday evening at 8PM via Zoom. Details here.)
So, dear church in quarantine, as you say your bedtime prayers tonight, let us imagine in a very real way that as long as we are lifting up these people in prayer, we are gaining ground and holding back the spread; but whenever we drop our hands and cease praying, the coronavirus gains more ground. Get up on that holy hill, and hold those arms up high until the sun sets on this long, long day of battle.