North Lakes Uniting Church member and pastoral carer Shirley Behan offers her thoughts on how to support those in your congregation who may not have access to the internet but still require regular contact, readings and prayers.
I have been invited to share how this coronavirus episode is impacting on me and how I have felt the need to reach out to others at the moment.
Pastoral caring has always been a ministry that I have felt God has called me to be involved in, from the age of about 11-years-old when I used to visit my elderly Aunty Elsie, who suffered from a number of strokes and could not talk. She could communicate only by her smile, and in those early days I learnt how important it was not to give up in these situations, but that there would always be some way of communicating.
I have been very aware that as an 80-year-old, there are others in our own congregation who struggle with the use of the internet, or just do not have access to such a modern technique of communication. So I started to contact some of these folk by phone and just ask, “Are you ok?”
These older folk have been a part of the faithful numbers who worshipped regularly over the years and have left us such a legacy (Now I realise I am a part of this “older” brigade as well).
Eventually I came up with the idea of trying to give them something printed, so it could be something for them to hold onto and use each day. So I thought that I could give them a Scripture reading and a prayer for each day, print it out and deliver it. Then I thought, what about other folk? My friends and family far and near, those not only in the same street, the same suburb, the same state—what about my friends interstate and even overseas?
So, as a way of being creative and using this time which God has given us, I have put together a daily reading of Scripture, followed by a prayer for the day, enough for a week—something that is relevant to the struggles we are all having in these uncertain times. Hopefully this can be something that each morning they can start the day with a message of hope. Sometimes we find it is the folk who outwardly seem okay are the very ones that need our helping hand.
Readings and prayers to be used in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic
You may wish to light a candle and have some reflective music playing in the background …
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Loving God, I admit that my security is important to me. Whether it’s building up retirement savings, driving a reliable vehicle, living in a safe neighbourhood or keeping supplies on hand for emergencies. I always try to be prepared.
But the reality for life at the moment is so uncertain as the threat of the coronavirus spreads throughout the world. My security is being threatened. The world is constantly changing and I am learning the hard way that nothing in this world is genuinely secure.
Teach me not to grasp so tightly those things that will not last. Instead, remind me of the only things in which I can truly find security. I know that my future is secure as long as I continually trust You. You are my protector and defender.
You are not surprised nor are you unprepared for what we are facing today.
Now more than ever we need to enact the gift of faith you have given each of us.
Now more than ever we need to support each other and keep in touch.
Now more than ever we need to call upon your Spirit to bring us peace
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and assure the isolated of your love.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Jesus, during your ministry you showed your power and caring by healing people of all ages and stations of life from physical, mental and spiritual ailments. Be present now to people who need your loving touch because of COVID-19. May they feel your power of healing through the care of doctors and nurses.
Take away the fear, anxiety, and feelings of isolation from people receiving treatment or under quarantine. Give them a sense of purpose in pursuing health and protecting others from exposure to the disease. Protect their families and friends and bring peace to all who love them.
“But now thus says the Lord,
He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel;
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
And the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)
We entrust to your unfailing and tender care this day,
Those who are ill or in pain,
Knowing that whenever danger threatens
Your everlasting arms are there to hold us safe.
Comfort and heal them, And restore them to health and strength.
Be present O merciful God,
and protect us throughout the coming days,
so that we who are wearied by the changes of this fleeting world,
may rest upon your eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’”
God of love, we turn to you with prayerful hearts and with confidence in your loving presence among us now and in every moment of our lives. We stand before you as people of hope, trusting in your care and protection. May we be comforted by your love in these anxious times.
Generous and Merciful God, fill us with compassion and concern for others, young and old; that we may look after each other in these challenging times, especially those among us who are vulnerable. May your example give us the courage we need to go to the margins, wherever they be. Heal us of our fear. May Your peace be with us and enfold us, today, tomorrow and during the time ahead.
With special thanks to the late Les Ireland, a dear friend who translated this Psalm 121. He was a member of the Aitkenvale Uniting Church, Townsville where our family worshipped for many years.
“I look to the mountains from whence comes my help,
But it certainly does not come from there,
My help comes to me from the Lord alone,
And I know He will always be there.
And he’s always ready to come to my aid,
For he does not slumber nor sleep,
But he keeps a permanent watch over me,
And I can safely rest in his keep.
The sun cannot hurt you or strike you by day,
Or the moon cannot hurt you by night;
Wherever you go the Lord is there,
And nothing can put you to flight.
So you can relax and trust in the Lord,
Wherever you go he’ll be there,
And his love he spreads on you like a mantle,
And you are safe in his care.”
Heavenly Father, we know that you are all powerful, that nothing happens outside of your knowledge and that what was intended for evil you will use for good. We pray that will be the case with this illness. More than anything, God, give us a heavenly and eternal perspective; help us to understand the importance of being wise and thoughtful members of the body of Christ right now, helping to meet the needs of those around us, those who are less fortunate and in need during this pandemic. Ease the fears and worries of those who are at higher risk of infection and fill them with your peace.
We pray that you will help us to trust you are in control. You are my God and I will trust you. You are working for our good. You are God and I am not. I can rest in knowing that I am Your child. Lord hear us.
“In my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)
Heavenly Father, sometimes in the midst of adversity, I cry out, “Where are you when I need you most?”
But the answer is always the same. You are right beside me. You are there, giving me the power to help me cope. You don’t promise to save me from trouble; instead, you tell me that you will be with me when I go through the deep waters that come my way.
Lord, I know myself. If you acted like a genie in a bottle, granting my every wish, I would follow you for the wrong reasons and my character would never grow. You promise to be with me, which is so much better.
Please give me the wisdom to cope, strength to conquer the fear and anxiety, and eyes of faith to see how I will become stronger as I walk with you and learn to deal with what lies ahead.
“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.” (Psalm 33: 20-22)
O Lord, I am clinging so hard to the familiar things in my life at present whilst the battle with the negatives of the coronavirus surround us. I wonder how to find the courage to let go and let you take control of my life.
Help me to recognise that when situations are beyond my control, I need to do what is right for as long as I can, and then trust you to take it from there. The more I try to control a situation, the less I hold on to you. That’s not what I want, Lord. Please give me the faith to be obedient and to wait for you to work.
Teach us that letting go doesn’t mean giving up; it means that I am watching for your next move.
And Lord, if any of us must walk the path of sickness, then help us to trust that you will bring us through.
You understand all things and have a plan that is bigger than anything we can comprehend. Lift us up when we begin to feel anxious and fearful and help us to give thanks that you have brought us safely to the beginning of another day. May nothing separate us from your love.
Shirley Behan is a pastoral carer and member at North Lakes Uniting Church.