How to Pray in a Pandemic {Documenting the Days During the COVID-19 Crisis}

How to Pray in a Pandemic {Documenting the Days During the COVID-19 Crisis}

The whole world seems to be groaning a bit under the weight of this global pandemic. Fists raised in frustration, tears wiped from anxious eyes, and hands lifted in desperate prayer.

In an article by Michael Gryboski, writing for The Christian Post, he sites a report that Google searches for prayer ‘skyrocket’ amid coronavirus outbreak.

He goes on to share excerpts from an analysis compiled by Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

Bentzen analyzed internet searches for prayer in 75 countries and reported that “search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”


“In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for stress relief and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” wrote Bentzen in the Abstract. “I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global.”


Bentzen found that during March, internet searches for prayer “surged to the highest level during the past five years … surpassing all other major events that otherwise instigate intensified demand for prayer, such as Christmas, Easter, and Ramadan.”

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen *  (“In Crisis We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic“)

As the curve spikes with positive COVID-19 cases, prayer surges right along with it. Like a wave pushing up from the bottom of the sea, prayer is the new tidal wave in response to the crack in the earth’s surface created by COVID-19. More than ever before, people are Googling God– seeking Divine help in our desperation.

Searching for Answers

My morning reading — ironically, during the middle of Holy Week — led me to a book in the Bible called Lamentations …a cry of lament. Merriam-Webster defines lament: to express sorrow, mourning, a crying out in grief : wailing,  a profound or demonstrative expression of sorrow.

As I began reading in chapter 1, it was surreal …as if reading from a current newspaper in March or April of 2020. Check out these words …

How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!


After affliction…
    Judah has gone into exile.


The roads to Zion mourn,
    for no one comes to her appointed festivals.
All her gateways are desolate,
    her priests groan,
her young women grieve,
    and she is in bitter anguish.


…in weakness they have fled
    before the pursuer.


In the days of her affliction and wandering
    Jerusalem remembers all the treasures
    that were hers in days of old.


All her people groan
    as they search for bread;
they barter their treasures for food
    to keep themselves alive.

from Lamentations 1 (NIV)

Sound familiar? It seems the prophet, Jeremiah, knew a thing or two about wide-spread suffering and crisis.

Babylon had invaded his beloved hometown of Jerusalem — much like the coronavirus has invaded our hometowns. Weeping. Grieving. Suffering. Anxiety. Lack of resources. Begging for bread. It looks as if his view painfully mirrors our own.

If the “measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy**,”  then  it begs us to look at Jeremiah’s response in challenging situations.

Consider our unwanted “enemy,” COVID-19. What can we learn about how to pray as this “enemy” stalks?

His prayer begins …

“The hearts of the people
    cry out to the Lord…
pour out your heart like water
    in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
    for the lives of your children…”

from Lamentation 2 (NIV)
Mama ~ photo by her grandson Andrew Waters

Like Jeremiah, have an honest conversation with God about how you feel.

Prayer is talking to God like you would to your best friend. He’s that close and turns out, always available and beyond the need for social distancing. As with any trusted friend, don’t be afraid to vent your feelings. Jeremiah is “walled in,” a.k.a. — quarantined. Affliction and sickness are everywhere and frankly, he’s depressed. In a brutally honest moment, he tells God how he feels as he cries out in anguish…

I am the man who has seen affliction …He has walled me in so I cannot escape …I remember my affliction… the bitterness… I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

from Jeremiah 3 (NIV)

After he get that off his chest, he begins to reminisce …

Remember how good God has been and how much He deeply loves you.

Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

from Lamentations 3 (NIV)

Boldly state your specific requests  as you continue your conversation with God.

Remember, Lord, what has happened to us;
look, and see our disgrace.

Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to foreigners.

We have become fatherless,
our mothers are widows.

We must buy the water we drink;
our wood can be had only at a price.

Those who pursue us are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.

From Lamentations 5 (NIV)

Prayer tip: If you don’t know what to say, use these verses as a template and simply insert current vocabulary for his words as you pray. “Inheritance” — income lost, filed for bankruptcy / foreclosure. “Fatherless” — thousands have died from COVID-19. “Buy the water we drink…our wood can be had only at a price” — scrounging for face masks, medicine to treat the virus, hospital beds, hand sanitizer , and even toilet paper. “Those who pursue us are at our heels…” — this unseen enemy, the coronavirus, is creeping into our own cities and neighborhoods. We’re tired. We’re weary. It’s hard to sleep.

Wash your hands–spiritually. Confession really is good for the soul.

Joy is gone from our hearts;
our dancing has turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!

from Lamentations 5 (NIV)

And in an ironic twist, turns out the corona gets its name from the word, crown. Was Jeremiah speaking with 20/20 vision into the things we may have set up as unhealthy kings and kingdoms in our lives? Money. Success. Security. Health.

Indeed, it is interesting that the coronavirus gets its name from a spiked ring of proteins on its surface that resembles a crown, hence the title of “corona.” In many ways, the coronavirus is revealing the crowned heads we already worship—health, self-protection, medicine. Our global, sustained attention to COVID-19 demonstrates that which we look to out of anxiety, control, and fear.

(In an article for Christianity Today, “Christians, Let’s Flatten the Curve But Remain a ‘Religion for the Sick’ ” — March 19, 2020

Keep asking!

Realizing no one else in all the world has been able to completely fix this pandemic. We are at the mercy of the Creator of the universe. He alone is our help …our refuge …our source of strength …our deliverer.

You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.

Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long?

Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old

from Lamentations 5 (NIV)

And in the end, it all came around to this essential need — “Restore us to yourself, Lord.”    

*Jeanet Sinding Bentzen is an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture

**Quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Feature photo:  Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay 

Joy Waters Martin

My kids tease me sometimes that my definition of a situation going well is often described as, "It was 'life-giving' " -- meaning, it may have had some conflicts or uneasy moments or stress but all in all , something about it breathed life into the situation and the people involved...something of the heart was moved in a good direction. I'm all about LIFE ... life with my husband, life with 4 adult children, their spouses and 8 grandchildren (to date, that is :), life in our home and life in a wild adventure we tend to label "ministry". In reality , all of these categories mesh together to make up the "organic me". Relational , redeeming and restoring are some of my favorite words and they give life to my soul as I walk it all out with Jesus Christ, the Giver of all life. Profile Photo by: Melody Martin

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Gail

    Love this Joy. Thanks for posting.

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