Intercession and the Coronavirus
There is a spectrum of approaches to intercession; the liberal approach does not allow that God can or will intervene in any supernatural way through prayer of intercession of any kind. The liberal Christian does not belief that God will over rule the created order of things. This approach would not even consider a prayer that will ask God to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. This would be against the rules as discerned by science. For the liberal prayer of Intercession can raise personal awareness and transform personal attitudes and behaviour; some will allow some intercession on behalf of medical staff, government and those who are victims of the disease. The assumption is that this might can influence the ‘spiritual atmosphere’ and perhaps ‘enlighten and strengthen those for who prayer is asked.
At the other end of the spectrum is a practice of intercession that does belief God can intervene in natural processes: the orthodox Christian believes that God is Lord of creation and for His own purposes can heal the sick, and even stop the virus spreading. This is a prayer of intercession that trusts in the promises and teaching of Jesus about prayer: Matthew 17:’ He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you,” and John 14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. ‘Jesus also teaches that prayer of intercession when allied to fasting and persistence will be answered: Luke 11; And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
The Book of Common Prayer, compiled at time when ‘common sickness’ and plague were almost an annual event, has wisdom to impart to our generation that is so accustomed to being pain and sickness free. In the Prayers and Thanksgivings found after the Litany the prayer in ‘time of common plague or sickness’ recalls the plagues that afflicted the Hebrews of the Exodus and the Kingdom of David after times of disobedience and reminds God that he accepted ‘an atonement’; in the first case the plea of Moses, and in the second the intercession of David, both of which were accompanied by penitence. Here is teaching entirely foreign to our contemporary spirituality: that heart felt, self –sacrificing, penitent intercession can be an atoning, redeeming and saving action. Contemporary understanding of disease may be different, but has the nature of God changed too?