The coronavirus is turning people in the United States away from many things. Thousands of workplaces are empty. Shopping malls are vacant. Movie theaters, restaurants, schools, and even many public beaches are closed.
But the virus is turning us toward one particular thing: prayer.
If there’s a silver lining to the dark cloud of COVID-19, it’s that we’re turning to God for guidance and protection. Social distancing, which is separating us from others for the sake of our physical health, has given people more time to draw near to God, which is certain to affect our spiritual health.
A new Pew Research Center survey shows that 86 percent of people in the U.S. are praying daily. More than half of us are praying that God would contain and end this dangerous virus. According to another study, more than 4 in 10 of us believe the virus is a “wake-up” call that should cause us to consider our relationships with God. And yet another new survey shows that worldwide, the topic of prayer is being searched on Google more than at any time in the past five years.
These statistics don’t stand in isolation. Easter is here. As we think about the greatest events in all of history, the death of Jesus for our sins and his rising from the dead that first resurrection morning, our need for the God of the Bible comes into even greater focus.
Christians and all responsible citizens need to avoid spreading the coronavirus. But there’s never a time when spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is out of season. Believers can reach out to friends and coworkers, as well as the services and ministries to the poor and the aged in our communities. We can communicate with them online, if not in person, and help provide food and other necessities to show the love of Christ.
Believers are also learning to think outside the box — quite literally, outside the “boxes” of the four walls of our churches. We’re gathering together online for prayer, teaching, and worship. We’re using social media platforms to see and talk with one another. We’re watching services on TV and are gathering as families to share time in God’s word and prayer, reconnecting with one another as a result.
Some of our national leaders are setting a wonderful example of dependence on God. When Vice President Mike Pence convened his task force on the virus, he began by leading the group in prayer. Sadly, and as one might expect, some of our national media mocked him.
Pence was not calling on God to magically remove the virus. He asked God to give wisdom and strength to those leading the effort against it. He and his colleagues prayed for medical professionals, caregivers, and researchers, that they might have insight and protection. And they prayed on behalf of the many people who would be affected by the disease.
In doing this, they were calling for God’s help in the same way many other leaders have in past days. Consider the moving prayers of George Washington and Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Jimmy Carter.
During our country’s greatest crisis, a prayerful Abraham Lincoln captured the spiritual need of our nation eloquently. In his proclamation of a National Fast Day in 1863, he wrote, “We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God.”
As in 1863, so also today. Over the past three years, our economy has boomed. The stock market has soared, personal wealth has risen, and business has been so good that many companies have had a hard time finding enough workers. These are all good things, and we can be grateful for them.
But it’s easy, in times of plenty and peace, to ignore our creator. The attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the mass shootings, and now COVID-19 force us to consider some of life’s greatest questions. Where is God in the midst of suffering? How can I know him? What kind of relationship does he want with me?
Our economy is being shaken as a vicious disease moves like an invisible invader throughout our country. But the hope offered by Jesus Christ is as real and vital as it was the first morning of his empty tomb. “He is not here; he has risen,” said the angel to a group of women wondering where Christ's body had gone. He is alive, and he is eager to enter your life.
The uncertainty of life has never been more evident, but so too is the reality that the God who made us is unchanging — the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can be thankful that he is closer to us than the air we breathe and is only a prayer away.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared in The Washington Examiner.