In this time of crisis and lockdown I am a hundred percent sure there are many things the Holy Spirit is saying to the church. But here, surely, follows one of them:
I was born in West Africa as the son of Australian bible translators. We’d live 3 years there and then return to Australia for a year’s furlough – so 3 years on 1 year off. Consequently, 9 out of the first 13 years of my life were spent in Africa.
Where we lived there was very little media – no magazines, newspapers, television, no internet and advertising billboards only for things like soap and beer. It was the 1990s back then and I missed hearing about many of the big world events that happened through that decade. You can imagine then that when my family came back to Australia permanently in 1999 I was overwhelmed by the amount of media that was thrust in my face everywhere I turned. Through my teenage years I started to notice a pattern in the daily news. There were regular “bad/unfortunate/tragic” things that happened across the earth every day – small earth quakes, droughts, famines, ongoing ethnic tensions in various places, plane crashes, floods. But every now and then there was a lull, a time where the number of “bad” things happening seemed to diminish. And then something really bad would happen. Something huge – 9/11, the boxing day tsunami, the Japanese earth quake and nuclear meltdown. It was hard to predict what was going to happen but I could, with reasonable accuracy, predict the scale of what was coming and when it was coming. It was uncanny.
When I was 19 I was filled with the Holy Spirit and I feel He revealed something to me about this strange pattern I had noticed. I felt like He showed me the different “bad” things happening across the earth were part of a great spiritual battle waging in the heavenly realm. When there was a lull before something big it was a sign that many of demonic forces were drawn to focus their attention on one particular place. I don’t know if that’s even biblical (hence why I say ‘I feel’ the Holy Spirit revealed it) but it is interesting.
What is biblical though is that Paul wrote this in Ephesians 6: “…we do not wrestle against flesh and bood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” What is also biblical is that we see in the book of revelation the prayers of the saints moving angels in heaven to change things on earth (see Revelation 5:8 and Revelation 8:1-6).
In this hour of COVID-19, we as the church have a serious call. It’s not only to grin and bear it and show that we have hope in Jesus so that people without that hope might get saved. But in the midst of crisis we are actually the only people who can influence what is happening in the spiritual realm.
God doesn’t cause death and illness. Satan does. Humanity’s sin gives legal right to the enemy to strike and in the midst of it God works to bring forth His will despite Satan’s destruction, even using Satan’s destruction. It’s a complicated mix of interactions but if what Paul writes in Ephesians 6 is true, if it’s true that the Lord has given dominion of the earth to humans (see Psalm 8:6), if it’s true that God doesn’t delight in death and destruction then our prayers have a key part of play in turning back this virus. Right now there is a terrible battle being fought in the heavens over humanity and we have a key part of play.
Here’s how I believe we do this. As a loving Father, in the midst of this crisis, the Lord is saying things to His people and we need to know what those are. God is using this crisis to call us to turn away from certain things (repentance), draw closer to Him (intimacy) and hear from Him battle plans to pray for His will to be done (for many a new calling).
The word Church comes from the Greek word ecclesia. Ecclesia means gathering. But an ecclesia was not just a happy gathering to share a meal or have fun or enjoy each other’s company. An ecclesia was the gathering of the leaders of a city at the gate of the city to oversee the welfare of the city. It was the gathering of the rulers to dictate what should happen in the city and how it should be run and protected. An ecclesia is meant to be a governmental gathering.
Additionally, when Jesus stormed the temple in the gospels and drove out the money changers He made this prophetic declaration from the book of Isaiah about one of the key identities of His people. “My house shall be called a House of Prayer.” (see Isaiah 56:6, 7 and Matthew 21:13) The word ‘house’ in this verse means “household” or “family”. In other words, those who identify as ‘Jesus’ people’ will have this as one of their key identities: they will be a people of prayer.
Joining these two concepts together gives every believer a clear mandate to make now the time to draw nearer to God so that we might hear His voice (through the word and Spirit) and agree on earth in prayer with His will (for ourselves, our families, our cities and our nations) in heaven.