This morning I read a news article entitled ‘What am I still allowed to do?’ It outlined the new measures which the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced to the nation on Monday evening, explaining what this new UK-wide lockdown means for each of us and when we can leave the house.
However, whilst we are not allowed to do many of the everyday things that we take for granted, praise God, we can still do the most important and useful thing of all- we can pray! So, here are some ideas of how to pray for the Christian healthcare staff who are part of our church family and those further afield.
As a former NHS doctor, my heart goes out to all the healthcare staff, some of whom are my closest friends, who are facing this pandemic on the frontline. Right now, doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are facing increasing demands and pressures which they know will only get worse over the coming weeks. Many are being redeployed to work in new specialities, take on new roles, cover different wards or patient groups and crash-learn complex, new skills in record time. Some will be working in the new, temporary field hospitals, like the Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre in East London. They will be dealing with high concentrations of COVID-19 patients, increasing their risk of exposure.
They will work ridiculous hours, care for unprecedented numbers of seriously ill patients, and they will feel the emotional burden of dying patients and grieving families. During this time, some of them will watch as colleagues, friends and family become ill as well. While most will recover quickly, some of them will not. Others will have to self-isolate from their immediate family if they have spouses, children or parents in a vulnerable category. This will lead many to live for extended periods away from the family home in temporary accommodation.
Those who are senior managers, consultants and senior nurses will carry the responsibility for making difficult decisions about who gets treated and who does not, based on imperfect knowledge. They know that their decisions will have life and death consequences for thousands of people.
It’s a grim picture I have painted, I know, but I don’t want to sugar-coat it: this will be tough, exceptionally tough. Our brothers and sisters need our prayer!!
So, what can we pray? Well here are ten ideas to get you started:
- Pray for the peace of the Lord, which transcends all understanding to fill their hearts and minds and pray that others will see this peace and be pointed to Jesus. Pray that when surrounded by pain and despair they will be filled with the joy of the Lord and will experience this joy every day as they serve those God has placed before them
- Pray for opportunities to share the hope and love of Christ with their patients and colleagues; pray for boldness to take these opportunities when they arise and wisdom to know how to use them.
- Pray that they may endure suffering, adversity and hardship well – not giving in to moaning or complaining but bearing hardships and difficulties with grace and in the joy of the Lord. Pray that they might know the blessing of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, and in so doing be his witnesses to colleagues and patients.
- Pray for their safety and that of their families, pray that they will have suitable protective equipment and that they will recover quickly if they become unwell themselves.
- Pray for wisdom to make good decisions; for skill as they perform various tasks and for patience with everyone they encounter (especially when they are exhausted, hungry and the demands seem unrelenting)! Pray also that they can deal with the consequences of decisions that go wrong; may they be able to learn from their errors, be open and honest about what went wrong and not be paralysed by guilt or fear of making future mistakes.
- Pray that they will be able to ‘switch off’ mentally when they go home, that they will have the emotional and spiritual support that they need; that they will have sufficient time to rest and do things they enjoy. Pray that they will get good restful sleep.
- Pray for those who are separated from their loved ones, that they will feel connected to the church community and others who love them. Pray that they will have someone they can offload to without feeling they must censor what they say.
- Pray that they will have the wisdom and courage to ask for help – whether that is asking for senior help when they feel out of their depth clinically or help to cope with the impact this is having on them personally. Pray that help will be readily available and that they will not be embarrassed about needing it.
- Pray that God will help them not to make any serious mistakes, especially when they are exhausted and working in unfamiliar areas, and that any mistakes they do make will be caught in time or easily rectified. Pray that they will know the grace and peace of God if they do make mistakes, that they won’t be overwhelmed by guilt and will know the support and compassion of their colleagues and governing bodies.
- Pray against feelings of inappropriate guilt– guilt that they should be doing more, guilt that they may transmit the virus to family members or already have, guilt that they had to allocate resources to one patient over another, etc. Pray that they will know that God is in control, and they will accept the limits of their responsibility.
Then after you have prayed for them, let them know you are praying for them, ask them for more specific prayer points and think about how else you can serve them at this time. Could you drop a meal off on their doorstep to heat up after a busy shift? Could you give them a quick call or text to check how they are? Could you offer to do their shopping for them when they might not have the time themselves or may not be able to find the groceries they need?
‘What am I still allowed to do?’ While some physical freedoms have been removed for a short while, praise God that we have the eternal freedom to boldly approach our Heavenly Father who loves us dearly and controls all things!
Ashley Stewart is Associate Head of Student Ministries at Christian Medical Fellowship
CMF has set up a pastoral care and well-being programme which any healthcare staff or students can access for support during this time, please see details here: https://cmf.li/PCWP
Further resources for churches, health professionals and the wider public are available from https://cmf.li/covid19Res
Join with us at 19:00 (7 pm UTC) each day to pray for frontline workers, our nation and the world as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic at #COVID1900Prayer
Any prayer requests or stories of answered prayer can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org