Sometimes it's hard to pray for big things that we don't understand. Before the lockdown began and for the first few weeks, there was lots of fresh fervency in prayer. And, while that fervency has continued for many, and the desire to pray is still there, some people are just now finding it difficult to know how to pray for a situation that's big, and confusing, and long-lasting, and often quite scary.
So, if you're finding it a challenge to know how to pray for the pandemic, here are some prayers to help you pray. It's perfectly fine to use these words written by others and make them your own. (After all, that's what we're doing all the time when we sing worship songs!)
Quite a while back, I posted about the Litany for the Pandemic, which remains a really helpful way to pray. But here are some other options as well.
I've arranged them by source, but from some of the sources there are a few prayers focusing on different aspects that are quite relevant during the pandemic and the lockdown, so scroll down and have a look.
One of the prayers I've found most helpful is the one for a time of common plague or sickness from the Church of Ireland 1926 Book of Common Prayer (from which I've included a number of helpful prayers below). So here is my attempt at lightly adapting it to contemporary language:
the Lord of life and death, of health and sickness;
Have mercy on us sinners in this time of great sickness and death.
Withdraw from us this grievous affliction.
Sanctify to us, we pray, this your fatherly correction.
Enlarge our love to bring relief to those who need our help.
Bless the remedies applied to assist them.
Give us prudence to see, and vigour to use,
the means your 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 while we live here
to that holy and heavenly wisdom
which may in the end bring us to life everlasting;
through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ,
Your only Son, our Lord. Amen.
Lee Gatiss and the Church Society has published a number of prayers to help people pray during the pandemic (which can be found here and here), including this Corona Collect:
Heavenly Father, our ever-present help in trouble, our fortress and our God: calm the anxious fears of all who turn to you; give strength and healing to those who are sick, and courage and skill to those who care for them; grant wisdom and clarity to those in authority; and humble us all to call upon you that we may be saved not only in this life, but also for that which is to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
They've also written prayers for more specific aspects of the current situation, such as one for the NHS and the government, one for the uncertainty of the situation, a prayer for those diagnosed with Covid-19, a prayer for those dying alone, and a prayer for those grieving in isolation.
Here's another prayer from the Church Society:
Lord God, our heavenly Father, the healer of nations and judge of all: give us grace to humble ourselves under your mighty hand throughout this time of anxiety and discomfort. In your anger, remember mercy, not giving to us all we deserve for our many sins, but strengthening us to repent and recover from all we must endure. For we ask in the name of our precious Saviour, Jesus Christ, who bore our sicknesses and carried our sorrows that we might experience new life in the Spirit, Amen.
Dr Gatiss also writes: "In challenging times, however, it is often the simplest things which are best. So why not also pray: Lord, please save us from this plague."
The prayer below is (lightly adapted from) on used at Mepkin abbey (which I stumbled across when someone shared it on Twitter):
Most merciful Triune God
We come to you in our weakness.
We come to you in our fear.
We come to you with trust.
For you alone are our hope.
We place before you the disease present in our world.
We turn to you in our time of need.
Bring wisdom to the doctors.
Give understanding to the scientists.
Endow caregivers with compassion and generosity.
Bring healing to those who are ill.
Protect those who are most at risk.
Give comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
Stabilise our communities.
Unite us in your compassion.
Remove all fear from our hearts.
Fill us with confidence in your care.
We pray in the name of Jesus who is
Lord forever and ever. Amen.
This hymn was written by Ulrich Zwingli 501 years ago during the 1519 outbreak of plague in Zurich, in which he nearly died. Advent Birmingham have set it to contemporary music here.
This Prayer During an Epidemic is from the Lutheran Service Book:
Almighty God, heavenly Father, give us grace to trust You during this time of illness and distress. In mercy, put an end to the epidemic that afflicts us. Grant relief to those who suffer, and comfort all that mourn. Sustain all medical personnel in their labours, and cause Your people ever to serve You in righteousness and holiness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
The Prayer Book of the Catholic Apostolic Church contained this prayer in time of sickness:
Below are some more prayers from the various national versions of the Book of Common Prayer. From the 1926 Church of Ireland version I've also included the prayers for hospitals, for a sick person, for the bereaved, and for absent friends (which might be of help in this time of lockdown and social distancing).
Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer of 1926
In the time of any Common Plague or Sickness.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.
For Hospitals and Infirmaries.ALMIGHTY God, whose blessed Son went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness; Continue, we beseech thee, this his gracious work among us, especially in the hospitals and infirmaries of our land; cheer, heal, and sanctify the sick; grant to the physicians, surgeons, and nurses wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience; and send down thy blessing on all who labour to relieve suffering and to forward thy purposes of love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For a Sick Person.O LORD, look down from heaven, behold, visit, and relieve thy servant, for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon him with the eyes of thy mercy; restore him, if it be thy good pleasure, to his former health; sanctify this thy fatherly correction to him; give him comfort and sure confidence in thee; defend him from the assaults and fear of the enemy, and keep him in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Bereaved.GRANT, O Lord, to all who are bereaved, the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with stedfastness and patience; not sorrowing as those without hope, but in thankful remembrance of thy great goodness in past years, and in the sure expectation of a joyful reunion in the heavenly places; and this we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Absent Friends.O GOD, who art present in every place; Mercifully hear our prayers for those whom we love, now absent from us; watch over them, we beseech thee and protect them in all anxiety, danger, and temptation; teach us and them to know that thou art always near, and that we are one in thee for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer (1662)
In the time of any common Plague or SicknessO ALMIGHTY God, who in thy wrath did send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in the time of king David, didst slay with the plague of Pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembering thy mercy didst save the rest; Have pity upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sickness and mortality; that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angel to cease from punishing, so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sickness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Protestant Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) Book of Common Prayer of 1928
In Time of Great Sickness and Mortality.O MOST mighty and merciful God, in this time of grievous sickness, we flee unto thee for succour. Deliver us, we beseech thee, from our peril; give strength and skill to all those who minister to the sick; prosper the means made use of for their cure; and grant that, perceiving how frail and uncertain our life is, we may apply our hearts unto that heavenly wisdom which leadeth to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Proposed English Prayer Book of 1928
In the time of any common Plague or Sickness.GRANT, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, help and deliverance unto us, who are visited with grievous mortality and sickness. Sanctify to us this our sore distress, and prosper with thy continual blessing those who labour to devise for mankind protection against disease and pain; through him who both healed and hallowed pain, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.