Just when we thought it was all over and that life would shortly be ‘back to normal’, up pops the Delta variant to prove us wrong. In the past two weeks, cases, we are told, have more than doubled, with the Indian variant not just 64% more infectious, but also proving worryingly vaccine resistant (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/june-21-easing-of-covid-lockdown-rules-delayed-by-four-weeks-zcxfwr6z7; https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/06/11/june-21-lockdown-lifting-called/).
In World War 2, when faced with what looked like military annihilation, seven times King George VI called for a national day of prayer. And seven times the nation was miraculously delivered. The first occasion was in 1940, when the Allied troops faced what seemed certain annihilation at Dunkirk. As around 400,000 desperate men were driven onto the beaches to await rescue, Churchill was warned that, at most, we would be lucky if 20,000 – 30,000 troops managed to survive. But the King called the nation to pray, and by the end of the eighth day 338,226 men had been rescued, aided by the fleet of small civilian boats, crewed by ‘ordinary’ men and women, who had responded to Churchill’s desperate plea for help (https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/dunkirk).
A couple of months later, under unremitting aerial attack and bombardment by the Luftwaffe, designed to bring Britain to its knees prior to invasion, the King again called the nation to pray. From the start the contest had been unequal, with the RAF’s 749 fighters pitted against the Luftwaffe’s 2,550 (https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/our-history/anniversaries/battle-of-britain/). Looked at objectively, Britain didn’t stand a chance, and a day of prayer was called for Sunday, 11th August, with the King especially asking for prayer for protection of the young pilots, whose average age was only 20. These young men battled valiantly, with huge numbers dying, and by September it looked as if defeat was inevitable, so the King called for a second day of prayer on 8th September. Again, the nation gave overwhelming support and the churches were packed – and that week an amazing 185 German planes were shot down, and Goering, suddenly and without warning, ‘gave up’. A week later, on 15th September, Churchill declared victory in the air.
But the greater battle of course went on, and the next day of prayer was called for 23rd March, 1941, in response to the heavy bombing that was crippling London. After the war, archived material was found in Berlin revealing that this had been one of the four dates selected by Hitler for invasion of the United Kingdom. Of course, that never occurred, but what actually did happen on that date was an earthquake below the Atlantic seabed, combined with storms, that threw German ships 80 miles off course, causing Hitler to give up all plans thereafter of invading Britain and focusing his attention onto Russia. At the same time, Ethopia was liberated from Mussolini, and the Royal Navy won a resounding victory against the Italian navy in the Mediterranean (https://ctntp.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/seven-national-calls-to-prayer-in-wwii.pdf).
The fifth day of prayer was called in September 1942, this time because the British Eighth Army had been driven by Rommel back to the borders of Egypt. In the battle of El Alamein that followed, ‘miraculously’ Rommel was on leave, and the enemy fuel supplies from Rome failed to arrive in time. Churchill is on record as saying, “Before El-Alamein, we never had a victory, after El-Alamein we never had a defeat” (http://sites.austincc.edu/caddis/world-war-ii-1942-43/ Section on North Africa).
The sixth day of prayer was 3rd September 1943, within 24 hours of which Italy surrendered to the Allies and Mussolini was executed. Finally, in the Spring of 1944, and ahead of the D-Day landings, the King once again called the nation to pray. The weather up to that time had been appalling, but on 6th June it suddenly ‘miraculously’ cleared, so that the Normandy invasion could go ahead. And although many lives were sadly lost, the number was amazingly far lower than had been anticipated.
The message of all this of course is that prayer changes things.
It would seem clear that, despite our faith in vaccines and social distancing, we are not at the moment winning the battle against Covid-19. It would also seem increasingly clear that, despite vigorous efforts by China to suppress investigation, the coronavirus Covid-19 really did originate in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which had been conducting dangerous ‘gain of function’ research into viruses, involving the manipulation of pathogens to make them more lethal ‘with the aim of understanding how viruses behave and how they may become more resistant to vaccines’ (https://www.ft.com/content/7fef48f1-88a4-48f7-8263-c50384643b7f). In other words, Covid-19 is not and never has been an act of God, but was rather the result of human meddling. It is an act of evil.
But God holds the key.
Covid-19 has gained such a deadly stranglehold only because in recent years mankind has rejected God’s rule and rebelled against His laws. We don’t need the protection of some mythical fairy in the sky, men and women have said jeeringly, we can look after ourselves. We can recreate creation, free of all the petty rules that ‘the fairy’ insists we follow. And even the Church, guardian of Truth and protector of the flock, has bought into this delusional myth of mankind’s coming of age, attempting to remake God in mankind’s flawed image. In all of this we have sinned. Small wonder then that God has not miraculously moved in power to deliver us.
But God is a God of power and, no matter what the sceptics say, He is and always has been Sovereign over all. God could stop transmission of this virus in a heartbeat – but, for Him to do this, first we have to repent our rebellion, so that we once again come under His protection. And then we have to ask Him to help.
But most of all the Church needs to repent the sin it has allowed to take root in its midst – not in harsh judgmentalism and hatred, but so that the lost might be saved. It must speak up, once again calling the nation to obedience and righteousness – becoming once more the guardian of Truth, and moral compass of the nation – so that men and women might be saved from eternal death.
Deliver us from evil, O God.
Renew a right spirit within us…
Restore us to the joy of salvation.