Prayer: Our Hope in a Pandemic

Dallas Willard taught me, “This world is a perfectly safe place to be — as long as you’re living with Jesus in the Kingdom of God.” (This is a paraphrase from The Divine Conspiracy, p. 66.)

Do you believe that? Do you trust that you are safe in Jesus’ arms? Even in the Covid-19 global pandemic? Even when someone gets really angry at you? Even when you feel rejected by a loved one?

We’re vulnerable to pain and evil, so from that view, our world is not safe. So how can we have real hope?

Often we put our “hope” in our circumstances getting better. Like getting out of lockdown from the coronavirus and things getting back to normal.

“Hope is the anticipation of good.” (That’s a Dallas Willard definition.) Hope is the gushing spring that gives rise to faith and love (Colossians 1:5) — as well as joy, peace, self-discipline and all of the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). Real hope like this is an anchor for your soul (Hebrews 6:19).

Google searches on “prayer” have skyrocketed since the coronavirus started spreading around the world and bringing waves of sickness, isolation, and death. As the old adage says, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” In suffering and danger, we cry out to God for help.

My hope is in the Lord alone, the Psalmist prays (e.g., Psalm 39:7, 62:1,5; 71:5). The Psalmist’s hope is not merely in this world, but in the spiritual world where God is present to love us now and for eternity.

It’s true. As we trust in the Spirit of Jesus with us, unseen divine provisions come into our earthly bodies and circumstances. That’s because God has created us as bi-habitational beings who can learn to live in the physical and heavenly world at the same time.

One time a pastor told Dallas Willard he was spiritually dry and struggling with prayer. (This was in the two-week Doctor of Ministry class he taught in a monastery which I completed.) Dallas listened to his story warmly. Then, sounding like a monk, he replied, “Maybe you’re struggling with prayer because you’re not doing much work with God.”

Your “work” is not just your job — it’s all things you do that create lasting value. (That’s another Dallas definition! See my article “Dallas Willard’s Definitions.”) Our main work is to love God and other people (Mark 12:30-31). In other words, we pray as we do works of love.

To love starts with patience and kindness (1 Corinthians 13:4). But it’s harder to be loving amidst stressors like coronavirus dangers, quarantine at home, financial losses, and worries about the future. We’re prone to stress reactions, depression, drinking too much alcohol, or becoming indifferent to God.

We can get “knocked out” of the Kingdom of God which is our eternal refuge.

To get back “into” God’s heavenly realm is simple. It’s not churchy. It’s not about long devotions. All it takes is hope that inspires prayer in little ways like these:

Meditating on a Scripture,

Pausing to take a deep breath,

Imagining the smile of Jesus,

Having a soul talk with a friend,

Or seeking God’s help as you do good work.

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Listen to today’s SoulTalk: What does it mean to be safe with God when we’re living in a season with danger? This is an important question to wrestle with while we’re in God’s presence. In prayer, we express our honest and raw emotions to God and receive empathy from him. It is in this place that we reorient to the safety of his presence. Bill and Kristi lead you through an experience of Psalm 91, so that you can dwell in the safety of God’s kingdom.

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