A recent article in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly has pointed out the obvious but unpleasant fact that American have given up on effectively controlling the Covid-19 virus (Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Myer, “America Is Giving Up in the Pandemic,” June 7, 2020). We are tired of being locked up, and many consider demonstrating for George Floyd and against police abuses worth taking a life threatening risk.
So that means that Christians will continue to b called on to pray with those infected with Covid-19. Some of course will only be mildly ill and at home in quarantine, and may be accessible to in-person prayer. Others in hospital and nursing home quarantine would not be accessible even by ordained clergy.
Below is what I believe to be the most effective, biblical way of praying against any virus. This needs to be tested on those seriously ill. Let us pray that a group of nurses, physicians or medical attendants will try this. If initial results are good, as I anticipate, they could develop a scientific protocol to test this conclusively. It does not take any scientific equipment of special monies, just a minuet or so of the attendant’s time.
Pray that somewhere in America a group of medical personal who are in the Covid-19 fight pay attention to this posting. This is simple and cost free.
So how can we pray effectively against viruses and specifically against the Covid-19 pandemic? For now, until we know better hw to pray corporately, by praying for one infected person at a time using biblical models.
So let us look at the biblical evidence. The word virus does not occur in the Bible, as no one knew about bacteria or viruses until relatively recent times. But the Bible mentions “fevers” several times, and specifically how Jesus healed people experiencing fevers. In the following incident Luke and Matthew give us complimentary accounts of how Jesus ministered to Peter’s mother-in law.
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. (Luke 4:38-39)
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matthew 8:14-15)
This is directly pertinent to the Covid-19 virus because we now know that most colds, flu and such are caused by viruses (rarely bacteria). Viruses are very ancient, and so what was afflicting Peter’s mother-in-law was most likely a fever caused by a virus. Viruses that infect humans are all pretty much the same, whether polio, flue, or corona virus, etc. They are tiny globes of fat and DNA that cannot exist by themselves but must find a host to replicate. So when Jesus came against the fever, He was really battling against a flu or cold virus of some sort.
Note that Jesus did two things, one, he touched her so that the healing energies of God would flow into her. He had done the same in many cases, including touching those with leprosy, whom everyone at the time recognized as contagious. (Matt 8:1-3) The other thing was to speak healing, but in this case in the form of a rebuke to the fever (and underlying infectious agent).
With today’s fear of Covid-19, many Christian would be afraid to touch an infected person. But I believe that is the biblical pattern, and I would have no reluctance in doing so, thought I would certainly wash my hands afterwards. As an Anglican priest, I have used a “common cup’ to distribute communion wine for decades and I have never known anyone made ill by that.
In any case, if one does not wish to touch, one can “speak” healing. It is important to note the rebuke. A rebuke is of curse given in the command mode. Although we do not have Jesus’ exact words, we can assume they were firm and not “nice” to the fever. We have his exact words when he cursed the fig tree to death
Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered. (Matt 21:18-20)
In the current pandemic I have not had the opportunity to pray for a patient with Covid-19 directly. Hospitals are not allowing even chaplains to minister directly to such patients. But over the decades I have prayed for many persons with colds and the flu with good effect following the command mode. I do that to myself when I feel the beginning of an illness such as a scratchy throat or drippy nose. I stand in front of a mirror and command: “In Jesus name, whatever virus or bacteria is infecting me die and disintegrate now!” I am not “nice.” I add an encouragement to my immune system, “Immune system, be strong and completely throw out whatever is infecting me.” I can truthfully say that in the past decade, using this command mode of prayer/curse, I have not had to take a sick day from work. I have prayed this over friends with the flu and it seems they recover much quicker, and sometimes almost instantly, as in the examples from scripture given above.
Of course this does not exhaust other forms of healing prayer for virus illness. James 5 encourages the elders of the church to anoint the sick with oil so that they will recover. It makes no distinction as to “fevers” (viruses) or other types of illnesses. I generally carry a small vessel of blessed oil, and many times when I pray for someone ill I finish with anointing the person’s forehead in the sign of the cross.