This is Friday, April 17, 2020 and Day 25 of living our current new normal under COVID-19 restrictions in Richardson, Texas and many places around the country as well as around the world. Recent days have seen a tightening of restrictions and heightening of expectations. Two weeks ago, hardly anyone wore masks out in public. Now, it seems almost mandatory. I heard a story about a couple going to a grocery store, intending to do their weekly shopping, being denied entry because they were not wearing masks. That wasn’t the case a week ago. But it is now. Part of the current new normal surrounding COVID-19 that we’ve come to accept is that the rules and expectations are changing almost daily and sometimes from one hour to the next. At least it sure seems that way.
This current new normal can be overwhelming. Alcohol and gun sales are up. Not a little; but a LOT. According to researchers at Nielsen, the sale of alcoholic beverages rose 55% near the end of March. Online alcohol sales jumped a whopping 243% even before the stay-at-home orders across the country went into effect. No doubt, those purchases continue to increase.
Read more about surging alcohol sales here.
Like alcohol sales, gun sales spiked too. Firearm merchants reported huge spikes in gun and ammo purchases across America as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Many gun merchants are seeing more traffic than they normally do during the holidays.
Read more about the spike in gun sales here.
As COVID-19 continues to loom over our country and as the harsh realities of a stalled, if not crashing, economy hit home we will surely see an increase in stress, depression, and anxiety. Loneliness will emerge from the darkness and experts predict we’ll see a spike in suicide attempts. Addiction and abuse–physical, emotional, child, domestic, and substance–will surge as more and more people feel overwhelmed by it all.
Are we a praying nation whose people have forgotten how to pray?
Based on how we’re coping and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, I think many of us have lost sight of the importance and power of prayer. You’ve heard it before today—“Spare us your thoughts and prayers,” “We need more than just prayer,” “Prayer is a waste of time,” and “Prayer doesn’t work.”
We live in a world that in many places has turned its back on God. For many, prayer isn’t the go-to response it once used to be in our homes and among our family members. This didn’t happen overnight but rather as a slow fade from light into darkness. You see, that’s what happens when we lose sight of God and we forget the power of prayer—the world gets dark.
Prayer offers us hope. It gives us access to the Creator of the Universe, the One who is in charge of it all, who loves us and works for good on our behalf, even when we can’t see it, feel it, or understand it. Prayer is a powerful tool that works if you practice using it.
I mentioned in another post that if you’re new to praying that’s okay—just start the conversation with God, however you understand God to be. With time and practice, I have no doubt that the Lord will reveal more of Himself to you as you spend time with Him in prayer.
During our online men’s ministry session the other morning, one of our young men lead us in a time of devotion focused on prayer. He shared three scripture passages that I want to share with you as well.
Lamentations 3:21-24 (NIV)
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
4 Rejoice in the LORD always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 4:2-6 (NIV)
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
God is faithful and trustworthy. We can take whatever concerns we have and turn them over to Him. We can talk to God about our troubles and what is weighing heavy on our hearts. Regardless of the present circumstances or situation we find ourselves in, we can rejoice, be thankful, and be vessels of peace. When we devote ourselves to prayer, the Holy Spirit not only intercedes for us and invokes prayers on our behalf, but the Holy Spirit is also working in us and on us as we pray.
Prayer is not only a conversation with God, but communion with our Lord.
It’s not a one-way talk but time in the shop. God is at work in us as we spend time in prayer. He’s growing us in spiritual maturity, He’s healing our wounds and He’s repairing our brokenness. That’s part of why spending time in prayer is so vital and valuable to us as spiritual beings living in perishable human bodies.
Another Bible verse that has come to my mind a lot lately as we’ve endured this pandemic is 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV):
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
..and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18, verse 1, we see Jesus tell the disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up.
These verses and others make it clear that prayer is important and expected. As believers proclaiming to follow Jesus, prayer is essential component of our lives. We are to be devoted to prayer. According to the dictionary, devote means to “give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to.” Does that describe your prayer life? It certainly doesn’t describe mine. I’ve got work to do in this area that I think I’m fairly competent in. I know how to pray. I pray regularly. But I wouldn’t say that I’m devoted. Wow. That hits home hard.
Prayer matters, especially now. We should be devoted to prayer.
Do you feel overwhelmed by it all? Then take it all to God in prayer. Give it to Him. Don’t hold on to your concerns and worries, keeping them to yourself, hoping they will never see the light of day. He is present, willing, and able to help you overcome that feeling of “IT’S ALL TOO MUCH TO HANDLE RIGHT NOW,” and ready to replace your fears with His peace. But you’ve got to ask Him to do it. He’s not a God who forces Himself upon you. He wants to help you, if you’re willing to allow Him to participate in your rescue.
It’s a troubling time for so many people all around the world. I’m reminded of how very blessed Terri and I are to live the life God has given us. We’re thankful for so much that the Lord has provided, is providing, and continues to provide. We’ve got good health and a secure roof over our heads. There’s always food in the fridge and on the table. We get to choose which clothes to put on our back as we go about our day. These are simple things that we are grateful for each day.
We continue to grow spiritually on this journey God ignited in us nearly 12 years ago today. The kindling had been there and He had been working steadily at building a big fire way before August 2007. What an amazing trip it’s been and continues to be as we follow Him, simply seeking to do His will.
- What are you praying for during COVID-19?
- How has God grown you spiritually during this pandemic?
- What does being devoted to prayer look like in your life today?
- What do you want being devoted to prayer look like in the future?
Father God, thank You for who You are. We give You all praise, honor, and glory due Your blessed Name. May Your will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven. Help us grow in our individual prayer lives and in our heart of prayer as a nation. Forgive us where we have turned our back on You as a land and a people, dear God. Deliver us from evil. Help us overcome this pandemic and help us mature and grow in Christ. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, by Your Spirit. Amen.
How can you pray for us?
People ask us that question a lot including people here in the blogosphere. Two big things weigh on our heart today aside from the usual daily needs:
- Terri and I have served in different capacities with Samaritan’s Purse for a number of years. It is an organization we love with leadership that we know and deeply respect. They help people anytime and anywhere there is a need. Recently, they set up a hospital in Central Park in New York City. While they are trying to help people suffering from COVID-19, they are under attack for their stance on gay marriage and for the statement of faith that those working and volunteering with them are expected to sign. It’s a statement Terri and I have read and prayed over numerous times before and that we’ve happily signed in the past when we were asked. Personally, we do not have any problem or issue with Samaritan Purse’s statement of faith. In all our years serving with them, we have never once even smelled a hint of discrimination or an unwillingness to help anyone, regardless of their background or beliefs. Our prayer is that God watch over SP and those serving on the frontline at the hospital in Central Park. We pray that the Lord keep them safe and that He would block efforts by political opposition to prevent SP from helping people during their time of need.
- Our second prayer that weighs heavily on our hearts centers on recent efforts by certain social media platforms to suppress my blog, The Devotional Guy™ on their individual public platforms. Since March, several social media platforms have barred me from sharing my blogposts because they have determined that my site contains content that is malicious, harmful, or offensive and that my content violates their community standards. I have yet to receive any explanation of what specifically violates their community standards but I continue to barred from sharing my content. In April, a team of legal experts from the First Liberty Institute came alongside us to help us fight against these social platforms suppressing the Christian views expressed on my blog. We pray that this issue would get resolved and that we would win a victory not only for our site but any site, particularly other Christian blogs, fighting to have their voice heard in a culture where some seek to silence us.
Well that’s it for now. Thanks for reading The COVID-19 Devotionals and my blog, The Devotional Guy™. Know that we are praying for you as this pandemic continues its hold over our nation.
During these unusual times, my Christian faith serves as an anchor keeping me firmly grounded. I covenant to pray more and to be more devoted to prayer. I hope you will join me in becoming more prayerful.
Be safe. Stay healthy.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™ is a writing ministry of Rainer Bantau, a seasoned gospel preacher, church musician, and chaplain ministering to individuals in their workplaces, to the homeless, and wherever he meets them. Highly skilled in listening, caring, and helping others as they navigate life’s challenges, he shares helps, hope, and insights on his blog, The Devotional Guy™.
I believe that in order to experience life the way God intended, you and I must receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, God has made this gift available to all who ask.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Will you personally receive the gift of eternal life so that you can experience the total forgiveness from your sins that come through believing in the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”