二○二○年三月二十一日／三月二十二日 Click here for English version
Thanksgiving and Prayer Year in the midst of Pandemic
Rev Sylvia Kwok
Looking at the couplet hanging in the worship hall of the Main Church which says, "Pray and give thanks, in faith we stand," I thought to myself: Ever since the start of 2020, Hong Kong and the rest of the world have been plagued with COVID-19. As such, how should brothers and sisters of the NPAC Family pray and give thanks?
The church has selected 1 & 2 Thessalonians for this year's Bible studies. When preparing Bible study material for my fellowship, I was immensely touched by the believers in Thessalonica. At that time, they were faced with persecution from the Jews (Acts 17:1-9). Despite the tribulation, the believers lived out faith, love and hope. That was why Paul gave thanks for them: "We always thank God for all of you…We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). In view of the adversity of last year's social movement and this year's pandemic, can we still cherish faith in God and strive to care for our neighbors and brothers and sisters? Can we persevere and live with joy because of our eternal hope? Or are we downcast, harboring only grievances, hatred and bitterness against those in authority? In the crisis, I saw believers tirelessly sharing face masks with the poor and needy. I also saw church coworkers united in an all-out effort to pack and distribute face masks to brothers and sisters and neighbors. My heart is full of thankfulness.
About our practice on prayer, how can we pray in ways that are close to the heart of God in the midst of the pandemic? The prayers of the Old Testament prophets, kings and the people of God enlighten us. In tribulation, for the glory of God's name, they often prayed for God's deliverance while confessing their sins and repenting. Psalm 79:9 says: "Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake." It is a God-centered prayer of humility and repentance rather than self-centered petition. I firmly believe this is the kind of prayer that will please God and which He will listen to.
When dedicating the temple, King Solomon prayed: "When famine or plague comes to the land…or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, and when a prayer or plea is made by any of your people Israel – … spreading out their hands toward this temple – then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive…" (2 Chronicles 6:28-30). It means that in a plague or disaster, even though not all Israelites can go to the temple to pray, God will hear their prayer as long as they are united in praying toward the temple. In the thick of today's pandemic, we cannot pray in the church. But if more brothers and sisters can join the recorded prayer meetings online and in one voice call out to the Lord, I am sure He will give His grace and mercy and the pandemic will end soon.
In the Thanksgiving and Prayer Year amid the pandemic, our God of miracles has a lesson for us – one of an alternative kind of thankfulness and prayer!