Grace and peace to you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A global pandemic makes the world sit up; it catches all of our attention. For some it has produced panic, fear, disruption, multiple losses of earning, livelihood, lives, separation from loved ones, loss of travel, cancellation of valued meetings and plans and produced isolation, family violence, hunger and uncertainty. For others it’s brought an oasis of peace, rest, blessed time with family, a welcome reset on priorities, time to hear and appreciate creation, smaller online gatherings for Bible study and reflection (rather than impersonal mega gatherings) and time to seek God.
God’s people are crying out for mercy, for renewal, restoration and revival.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a 50 per cent surge in online searches for prayer as people turn to religion to cope with feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. Online prayer meetings with thousands, sometimes millions, of people joining together at the same time on multiple platforms have never been seen before in such numbers and frequency.
God’s people are crying out for mercy, for renewal, restoration and revival. The connectivity provided for those with internet access has given a voice to many who previously would have unlikely been able to join global gatherings, certainly not on this scale, for months on end. There has been an increase in prayer for specific mission movements and for the multiplication of disciple making movements – including the persecuted and geographically isolated.
Fear and uncertainty have ploughed the ground in people’s hearts to ask the big questions of life. This, together with acts of kindness and love, such as distributing food and clean water, has provided new platforms to share about Jesus’ love and compassion. New discipleship small-groups are springing up in “dark and hostile” parts of the globe.
At the heart of the gospel is the call to be restored into our right relationship with God, our Father, through Jesus, to be brought into God’s family and establish His Kingdom values on earth, as it is in heaven. Being family has echoed with an increased resonance during the pandemic. The need and desire for unity in the body of Christ, for mutual collaboration, for serving and preferring the other (including agency or organisation), has been magnified.
In many parts of the world where the gospel has not yet been proclaimed, or is very limited in access to the majority of the population, it is in families and small local communities where the good news is being received. Just as in the book of Acts, households (e.g. Cornelius, Lydia) are believing and following Jesus with immediate baptisms. Imams and community leaders are witnessing the power of the gospel as believers take risks and cross cultural barriers to demonstrate Jesus’ love for the community. For example, newly arrived believers in one village offered to bury six men who died from COVID-19. The village Imam gave his permission. As the dead men were carried through the village, Psalms were read aloud and prayer offered in Jesus’ name. Families of those 6 men chose to follow Jesus and many in the village were saved.
The pandemic is shaking long held beliefs, causing doubts about what and who is trustworthy and deserving of worship.
At the heart of intercession for mission is the desire to see God’s Kingdom come on earth—for nations and peoples to become obedient to Jesus. Often the barriers to this are cultural, as Christianity is understood as an outsider’s religion, or there are barriers of idols (where something else is considered more important or trustworthy than God).
The pandemic is shaking long held beliefs, causing doubts about what and who is trustworthy and deserving of worship. In Western nations the surge in prayer and online church attendance may be partially due to the shaking of security in health provision, employment and financial stability, and the stark reality that death is only a breath away.
Prayer is a vital part of life for the public, with just under half of UK adults (44%) saying they pray. Among those who pray a third (33%) say that they have prayed since the COVID-19 lockdown because they believe it makes a difference. A third (34%) of UK adults aged 18-34 say they have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown (on the radio, live on TV, on demand or streamed online).
Prayer is the “first domino” to see a people group turn to Jesus.
Those who are praying regularly for missions (especially those concerned for the making of disciples and the gospel to be proclaimed in all nations) are sensing shifts in the following arenas in the coming months and years:
The COVID- 19 pandemic is providing an opportunity for a reset and repositioning of the Bride of Christ: to grow in listening dependency on the Holy Spirit for our next steps and plans; to choose to prefer one other with humility and servant-hearted collaboration.
Jesus teaches us to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Our pace is important. With virtual communication increasing, we need discernment and discipline to navigate the overload of information and opportunities.
This is a pivotal moment in history to see a great harvest of people come to worship and follow Jesus. The virus has accelerated what was already happening and increased a hunger to know the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
 In March 2020, the share of Google searches for prayer surged to the highest level ever recorded, surpassing all other major events that otherwise call for prayer, such as Christmas, Easter and Ramadan, analysis has revealed. Kelly-Linden, J., 2020. Pandemic Prompts Surge in Interest in Prayer, Google Data Show. The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/climate-and-people/pandemic-prompts-surge-interest-prayer-google-data-show/ [Accessed May 29, 2020].
 Lang, M. & Pegna, T., Many Brits Look to Faith During Lockdown. Tearfund. Available at: https://www.tearfund.org/en/media/press_releases/many_brits_look_to_faith_during_lockdown/ [Accessed May 29, 2020]. Similar shakings are reported in the USA as well: Shellnutt, K., 2020. When God Closes a Church Door, He Opens a Browser Window. News & Reporting. Available at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2020/march/online-church-attendance-covid-19-streaming-video-app.html [Accessed May 29, 2020].
 According to a new nationwide poll of 2,101 UK adults by Savanta ComRes for Christian relief & development agency Tearfund. Sourced from Lang and Pegna see footnote 2 above.
 Lewis, R., The Remaining Peoples With no Chance to Hear About Jesus. Mission Frontiers. Available at: https://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/the-remaining-peoples-with-no-chance-to-hear-about-jesus [Accessed May 29, 2020].