I think we all felt a certain collective numbness come upon us last week as we heard the sobering and distressing news that we had reached the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid 19. In response to that the Archbishops sent out an open letter calling us to prayer, outlining the ‘Prayer for the nation initiative’, and reminding us of the hope that we have in Christ. The letter can be found at: www.churchofengland.org/resources/prayer-nation and Ruth pointed us to it earlier in the week. I was particularly struck by the emphasis in the letter about prayer being an expression of our love for those around us. I quote:
‘Therefore, we need to support each other. We do this by following the guidelines. But we also do it by reaching out to each other with care and kindness. One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day. Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on 1 February we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love’.
How true it is. I can only speak from my own experience but I have never been rebuffed by anyone when I’ve asked if I can pray for them – regardless of the fact that they might not be people of faith themselves. I think people find comfort and strength in the fact that others are taking the time and the trouble to bring their needs to some ‘higher power’, whoever the person being prayed for understand that to be, and to someone/something that is outside of themselves and their own resources. Of course, as Christians, we believe that there is nothing impersonal at all about the one we pray to. We can come to God the Father through Jesus the Son and our hope and joy is in the fact that he truly knows us, understands us, and is very aware of our own needs and the needs of those around us. The remarkable thing is that we can know him too. It truly is a relationship and we can talk to him about everything that is on our minds. It really is our privilege and our responsibility to hold our world, nation, community, family, friends and neighbours before him in prayer.
The Archbishops conclude their letter by reminding us of the hope that we have in Christ. In the light of the death, grief and sadness that we are so mindful and aware of at this time their words have a particular resonance. Again I quote:
‘Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom every tear will be wiped away. Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us’.
So as we reflect on these words let’s renew our commitment to pray and to call upon the Lord to bring relief and restoration from this present crisis. The Archbishop also spoke very well on BBC breakfast last week and again the message of the hope that we have in Christ was at the heart of all he said. In Overton this month there is also a particular focus on ‘Love’ in keeping with Valentine’s day. As a church we are delighted to be able to point people to the love of Christ – the one who walks with us always and forever and will never leave us or forsake us even through the most testing of times. Let me close with this prayer for the nation given to us and for us by the Archbishops:
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief, protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere and face the future with hope
In Jesus Christ our risen Lord.