I had already started writing something else for today. On Wednesday night my housemate and I sat at a coffee shop table, typing on our laptops and eavesdropping on other tables. Minute by minute, we realized every table was discussing the same topic Jules and I had discussed on the drive over: coronavirus. I’d dive back into my document, into the words and my own thoughts, then find myself eavesdropping once again.
On Thursday my office encouraged us to begin working remotely, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered all K-12 schools to stay closed after the weekend. Coronavirus is affecting my every day, and my demographic is a low-risk one. My life can shift to indoors, away from public places, with fewer consequences than for parents, service workers, and so many others.
In overwhelming times, in difficult times, prayer seems both more urgent and more difficult. How do you speak confusion to God? Speak anger to God? Speak frustration and grief and worry and hope to God?
These are not simple, easy words, and I’ve been so grateful for the prayers that have come into my life through social media, books on my bedside table, and those around me. Sometimes when others cannot form the words, we pray for them. And when we cannot form the words, others pray for us. Here are a few words to wash over you, to shape in the mind even while the mouth struggles.
“May you find a deep breath when the air around you is thin. May you grow in compassion in these days. May you love well, not in spite of these anxious times but because of them.”
Sarah Bessey, “Breath Prayers for Anxious Times”
“Our world belongs to you. Our air belongs to you. The ears we use to hear, the mouths we use to sing, the minds we use to think and feel and pray—all yours. In your great mercy, contain this virus sweeping your good world. Spring clean that world.”
Professor Chad Engbers at Calvin University Chapel,
Feb. 12, 2020,
quoted by Pastor Mary Hulst
“Increase, O God, the spirit of neighborliness among us, that in peril we may uphold one another, in suffering tend to one another, and in homelessness, loneliness, or exile befriend one another.”
Tish Harrison Warren,
Twitter, March 12, 2020
“Grant us discernment in the face of troubling news reports. Give us discernment to know when to pray, when to speak out, when to act, and when to simply shut off our screens and our devices, and to sit quietly in your presence, casting the burdens of this world upon the strong shoulders of the one who alone is able to bear them up.”
Douglas Kaine McKelvey,
Every Moment Holy: Volume I
“Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, in your mercy watch over us and all your people. Give us outward safety and an inward trust in you which will enable us to bring help to others.”
Lent for Everyone: Matthew, Year A
“Christ with me sleeping, Christ with me waking, Christ with me watching. Every day and night, every day and night.”
Ancient Celtic Prayer,
translated in The Celtic Way of Prayer
“Handling / his Word, we feel his flesh, his bones, and hear his voice / calling our early-morning name.”
“…for they shall see God”
Luci Shaw, Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation
Courtney Zonnefeld graduated in 2018 with a degree in writing. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she works for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and saving up for more herb plants. You can usually find her wandering a farmer’s market, hunting for vintage books, or browsing the tea selection in coffee shops.