This is how we should pray

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COVID-19 epidemic is spreading across the whole world and has become pandemic. As at early April, there were more than one million confirmed cases and over 60,000 deaths globally. There were more than 8,000 confirmed cases in Hong Kong while Sarawak had fewer confirmed cases, mostly imported.

This epidemic was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, around December last year. The first wave of infections was mainly in countries or regions adjacent to mainland China. Because the epidemic in Hong Kong started in a Buddhist temple in North Point on Hong Kong Island at around the same time as the epidemic in South Korea which was also related to a religious organization accused of being a cult in Daegu City, some people began circulating the news on internet that COVID-19 pandemic is because the world is rejecting the true God, worshipping false gods and so God allows the pandemic to happen. Some churches and religious groups are calling their believers to pray hard and confess their sins to God so that the pandemic will be wiped off.

When SARS attacked Hong Kong 17 years ago, some Hong Kong newspapers published full paged prayer by a Christian group, praying to God to cast a far-flung net across the Shenzhen River to block the spread of SARS virus from the north into Hong Kong. A few years later, during the outbreak of the avian flu, a similar prayer was circulated openly, praying that God would camp at the Hong Kong border to stop the birds that carried the virus from entering Hong Kong.

Such theologies are paradoxical and should be discerned with care. Harold S. Kushner, the author of “When Bad Things happened to Good People”, says that God created this world and let nature law work in this world. For example if virus or bacteria spreads with droplets, as long as a person inadvertently stays within the range of transmission, he is very likely to be infected. This has nothing to do with whether he is “good” or “pious”. He gives another example that the bullet shot by a bad guy or a drunken driver driving on the pedestrian lane, the victim would not escape such injuries regardless of his character or belief.

So, how does God “protect” His people? Kushner admits that God does not usually cause the droplets carrying the virus to magically disappear in front of a “good person”, nor a bullet shooting towards the “godly person” change its course suddenly. What God does is to let the soul of the unfortunate victim rest in His arms and to comfort his family and friends in their grief and mourning.

“God’s role is not to make our lives easier, to make the hard things go away, or to do them for us. God’s role is to give us the vision to know what we need to do, to bless us with the qualities of soul that we need to handle things, no matter how hard they may be, and to accompany us along the journey.”

Kushner helps us understand our faith more correctly and properly. As the pandemic sweeps across the world, the number of cases and deaths are rising day by day. The world economy is badly hit, unemployment rate is rising and recovery seems to be far away. We need prayer more than ever and we need God to give us perseverance, patience and confidence to walk through these difficult days. By the deeds of many brave medical staffs, sacrificial elderly and the old priests (they gave their ventilators to the younger patients and sacrificed their lives), we witness God’s presence.

Recently I heard a very encouraging song “The Prayer” and I would like to share with my brothers and sisters in Sarawak:
“I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe”

Written by Ng Sze Yuen, Hong Kong
Translated by KT Chew