Following the launch on St Patrick’s Day of a season of prayer in our Diocese from now until Pentecost Sunday, 31 May
2020, I would like to give all of us some further encouragements as we take this forward.
Firstly, the call to this season of prayer included making available the following prayer that now, through the means of social media, we would request people to pray daily in this period:
Almighty and merciful God, who in
Days of old didst give to this land
The benediction of thy holy Church;
withdraw not, we pray thee, thy favour
from us, but so correct what is amiss,
and supply what is lacking, that we may
more and more bring forth fruit to thy
glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Opening our church buildings for prayer
Secondly, after asking some people to look more closely at the government health guidelines, I have asked local parishes, clergy, select vestries and people to look at how they can open church buildings for private prayer as much as possible at this time of fear, anxiety, need and opportunity. I have made it clear that where church buildings are open the strictest hygiene should be observed in accordance with public health guidelines.
Down Cathedral is open Mon–Sat 9.30 am to 4.00 pm
Dromore Cathedral will be open Mon–Fri 10.00 am–2.00 pm and Sunday 12 noon–6.00 pm
Thirdly, the following are just a few prayers that I’ve found helpful in recent days that you might want to use and share with others.
a. The following prayer in the 1926 edition of the Book of Common Prayer that didn’t find its way into our current edition. The language is dated but the cry to God is not weakened by this:
O Almighty God, the Lord of life and death, of health and sickness; Have pity upon us miserable sinners, now visited with great sickness (and mortality). Withdraw from us this grievous affliction. Sanctify to us, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction. Enlarge our charity to relieve those who need our help. Bless the remedies applied to assist them. Give us prudence to see, and vigour to use, those means which thy providence affords, for preventing and alleviating such calamities. And, above all, teach us to know how frail and uncertain our condition is, and so to number our days, that we may seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom, whilst we live here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting; through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thine only Son our Lord. Amen.
b. The following prayer provided by Pete Grieg of the 24/7 movement:
Lord Jesus Christ, we ask you to protect us from the spread of the coronavirus. You are powerful and merciful; let this be our prayer –
[response] “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 577:1)
Jehovah Shalom, Lord of Peace, we remember those living in coronavirus hotspots and those currently in isolation. May they know your presence in their isolation, your peace in their turmoil and your patience in their waiting. Prince of Peace, you are powerful and merciful; let this be their prayer –
[response] “May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, God our Saviour, for the glory of your name.” (Psalm 79.8)
God of all Comfort and Counsel, we pray for those who are grieving, reeling from the sudden loss of loved ones. May they find your fellowship in their suffering, your comfort in their loss, and your hope in their despair. We name before you those know to us who are vulnerable and scared – the frail, the sick and the elderly. God of all Comfort, you are powerful and merciful; may this be our prayer –
[response] “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.” (2 Corinthians 1:10)
Jehovah Rapha, God who heals, we pray for all medical professionals dealing daily with the intense pressures of this crisis. Grant them resilience in weariness, discernment in diagnosis, and compassion upon compassion as they care. We thank you for the army of researchers working steadily and quietly towards a cure – give them clarity, serendipity and unexpected breakthrough today. Would you rise above this present darkness as the Sun of Righteousness with healing in your rays. May this be our prayer –
[response] “Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)
God of all Wisdom, we pray for our leaders: the World Health Organisation, national governments, and local leaders too – heads of schools, hospitals and other institutions. Since you have positioned these people in public service for this hour, we ask you to grant them wisdom beyond their own wisdom to contain this virus, faith beyond their own faith to fight this fear, and strength beyond their own strength to sustain vital institutions through this time of turmoil. God of all Wisdom and Counsel, you are powerful and merciful; may this be our prayer –
[response] “God is our refuge and strength, an ever–present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear.” (Psalm 46 1–2)
I bless you with the words of Psalm 91: “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plaque that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:3–7)
[response] “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1)
May El Shaddai, the Lord God Almighty who loves you protect you. May Jesus Christ, His Son who died for you save you. And may the Holy Spirit who broods over the chaos and fills you with his presence, intercede for you and in you for others at this time.
[response] “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)
c. A prayer written by the Most Reverend Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin.
Almighty and All–loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we pray to you through Christ the Healer for those who suffer from the Coronavirus Covid–19 in Ireland and across the world.
We pray too for all who reach out to those who mourn the loss of each and every person who has died as a result of contracting the disease.
Give wisdom to policymakers, skill to healthcare professionals and researchers, comfort to everyone in distress and a sense of calm to us all in these days of uncertainty and distress.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord who showed compassion to the outcast, acceptance to the rejected and love to those to whom no love was shown.
Finally, I am aware that a variety of Christian leaders across the island of Ireland, both north and south, are looking at calling people of all Christian tradition to a focused and united way of praying for our land in these unprecedented days.
With this thought I finish. A verse from the Chronicler has often been used down the centuries to call men and women to prayer in days of great need.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
While written in its original context to God’s own people Israel we in the Church today, I believe, should choose to humble ourselves. Repentance is something you and I should never shy away from. The Church can, and I think should, cry out for God’s mercy on itself and on our nation. So let’s find ways to pray, let’s invite people widely to engage with God humbly in prayer with repentance. Let’s be earnest in how we seek God’s grace and where we need to and should, let’s by God’s grace be transformed and changed as we and many turn from how we have been living to live for Christ. He promises to hear from heaven, to forgive our sins and to heal our land.
Peel it over hill and valley,
Tell it out through street and alley,
This the song to which we rally,
Ireland for Christ.
Yours in His service,
Down and Dromore