As people of faith, it is essential that we unite in prayer to pray for an end to the COVID-19 outbreak as well as all those impacted by the virus and potentially devastating economic consequences. There are two reasons we must pray in these moments. The first is that we believe God listens to us and acts on our behalf.
The second and perhaps more important reason is that our prayer changes us to act gracefully in these moments. Prayer can make us more patient, peaceful, kind, generous and hope filled. These qualities alive in each of us will help everyone in our community, whether they are people of faith or not. They will help us all through these times.
The evidence that prayer works, especially in this second way, is in the lives of people of faith. Consider, for example, the challenging times of the great depression and World War II. Those times were uncertain and stressful, and people turned to prayer in those moments. As many of those men and women turned elderly, we have seen those qualities of generosity, kindness, peace, and patience at work in so many them. This moment will transform us as well.
The following is our parish prayer plan. We are asking our parishioners to stop and pray at several times throughout the day. These are not intended to be long periods of prayer, but simple devotions to keep us mindful of God’s presence in the midst of our worries. I’m sure you can do this. If we are faithful to this throughout the coming days and weeks, it will make an impact on each of us.
Morning Prayer: Pray Psalm 91
The Book of Psalms is a great resource for prayer. These are prayers that nourished the Jewish people in good times and bad times. Jesus himself prayed these prayers regularly and they have taken on a unique meaning for Christians today. Psalm 91 is very applicable for this moment because this psalm mentions God keeping his people safe from a plague. Pray this Psalm daily during this time.
For those wanting more:
The Liturgy of the hours is the most ancient way to pray the Psalms, however, this can be difficult to learn especially if you have never prayed them before.
Magnifcat is an abridged version of the liturgy of the hours that is not too difficult to pray. They are even offering a free online subscription, which you can find here: https://us.magnificat.net/free
You can also add a second Psalm. We suggest Psalm 95, 100, or 63.
Noon Prayer: The Our Father
Please set your alarm for 12 o’clock, noon, every day and simply offer an Our Father for all World Leaders, All Church leaders, all who work in the medical field, all those afflicted by the Coronavirus and their families, and all those undergoing economic or personal challenges due to this outbreak. Of course, also pray for an end to the spread of this virus.
For those wanting more:
This would also be a great time to pray the Angelus or to offer another devotion like the rosary.
Late afternoon/Early Evening: Ponder Scripture for 10 minutes
This can be a difficult time of the day for people to pray, but it is also a very good time to pray. At this moment, spending time thinking deeply about the words of scripture can help to inspire us to live holy lives and to help others get through difficult times.
Yes, scripture can be confusing to many people, but there are often many passages that are quite straightforward. This particular devotion can also spark good discussion with family and friends and I actually want to encourage families to read a passage together and reflect on how you might put the words into practice. If you’ve never done this with your family, it might be awkward, but it can also help bear a lot of fruit.
Here are some suggested passages:
Romans 8:38-39 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 James 1:2-4 Philippians 4:4-7
Read slowly through one of the Gospels, reflecting on a small portion or even a chapter every day.
Late Evening/Night prayer: Examen prayer/gratitude journal
St. Ignatius of Loyola is perhaps most famous for popularizing the practice of the Examen. Prayed once (and often twice) a day, this prayer has proven to help Christians recognize God’s blessing in their lives. Even though there are many parts of the Examen, we are going to focus on just one aspect, which is a prayer of gratitude.
Gratitude is especially important for us right now because so much has been taken away from us. Many have lost money, and some have even lost jobs. All of us have had hobbies and leisure taken away and even some of our freedoms are now gone. With so much loss, we have to recall that God is still giving us so many things, and he deserves our gratitude.
Spending just five to ten minutes at the end of every day calling to mind our blessings and thanking God for them is one of the most spiritually healthy things we can do. But it isn’t just spiritually healthy. It is psychologically healthy. Psychologists have done tests to prove it.
In one experiment, a group being tested was to spend a few minutes at the end of every day writing down the things they were grateful for in a journal. At the end of a period of time, they were compared to a “control” group, who was not given any extra instructions. Both groups were asked questions, such as, “How satisfied are you with life?” Overall, the group that did the gratitude journal was much happier and healthier than the control group.
In an essay published at Psychology today, one researcher said:
Gratitude connects people into a mutually supportive and sustaining mesh of social relationships, which, of course, it acts to strengthen and develop. It is the foundation of the type of society in which people can look after one another without coercion, incentives, or governmental interference, which, unlike gratitude, demean rather than exalt us.
I don’t know about you, but I think we are going to need a society that sounds a lot like this when this is all over. In fact, if you do one aspect of this parish prayer plan, this is what I would have you do. Spend 5-10 minutes writing down what you are grateful for, and offering a sincere prayer of thanksgiving to God.
It is not always easy to understand why fasting works, but it does. Jesus himself speaks positively about the discipline of fasting when done with a proper mindset (not to draw attention to oneself). Jesus himself even fasted, most notably, when he went into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.
During Fridays, I would like for us to fast for our world. As we do in our daily prayer at noon, I would like for you to fast for all world leaders, Church leaders, those who work in the medical field, those who are impacted by the Coronavirus, and those impacted by our economic downturn.
Fasting does not have to be complicated. Eating very simple meals or even sacrificing a meal will suffice. You can also give up some other type of pleasure. You can take a lukewarm shower instead of a hot shower or you can turn off the tv or device and spend time in prayer or with family or calling elderly friends and relatives.
While we don’t always know how this works, it does work and it is important that it is a part of our parish plan.
In addition to the other parts of this prayer plan, please find some way to celebrate and have fun.
If you have access to our parish facebook page, you can also join us for Mass (time is TBD). You can also spend a little while perusing the resources of formed.org. Just look for the place to enter our parish, St. Rose de Viterbo (even if you belong to a different parish in Cowlitz County, you will want to put in St. Rose). Fill out the form and you should have access. Be sure to call us if you need help!
Thank you all for your participation. This prayer plan is not too extensive, but the methods are tried and true. They will help you and our entire world through this time!