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John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, others to lead day of prayer, fasting amid COVID-19

John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, others to lead day of prayer, fasting amid COVID-19

A man crosses the mostly deserted 7 Avenue in Times Square New York City during the coronavirus outbreak. | The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair

A cadre of renowned Christian leaders, including theologian John Piper and Joni Eareckson Tada, are leading a prayer and fasting call Saturday to intercede for the world in the throes of a pandemic.

The global evangelical group The Gospel Coalition is facilitating the day. In a video promoting the effort, TGC President Julius Kim explained that they envisioned the day having three parts: morning prayer where Christians pray with a guide based on Psalm 27; a mid-day prayer where participants pray with others in their communities, families, or small groups; and an evening prayer on TGC's Facebook page with Christians from around the world.

"We want to pray to the Lord in faith, trusting what it says in passages like Psalm 10:17. 'O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear,'" he said, quoting the passage.

Pastors and musicians such as Keith and Kristyn Getty will guide the evening hour. Among those involved are theologian and pastor Piper, Kevin DeYoung, Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie, pastor John Onwuchekwa, Bible teacher Jen Wilkin, scholar Ligon Duncan, and speaker and author Tada.

"Much has already been lost, and the uncertainty of what more can be lost — and when it will stop — leaves people deeply anxious," Kim wrote on the group's website, noting that fasting and praying can unify Christians around the world amid social distancing and growing scattering.

"But we worship a mighty and sovereign God who is not helpless. We cry out to him in our distress because he is steadfast and unchanging — a mighty refuge in a world of storms."

The pandemic besieged many nations in the height of Lent, the 40-day penitential season that precedes Easter. Holy Week begins April 5 with Palm Sunday.

As of Friday, the death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States reached 6,803 with 266,259 documented cases, according to Worldometers.

"It doesn’t take living in this world very long to feel the weight of its brokenness," wrote Sammy Rhodes, a campus minister with Reformed University Fellowship at the University of South Carolina, on the TGC site Friday, commenting on the worldwide disease outbreak. "Whether it’s a stroke or a deadly virus, we know the world is not as it should be. Everything is not whole. Everything is not in its right place. We do our best to manage things with some semblance of control—only to find out (often quite suddenly) that the control we thought we had was a laughable illusion." 

"Where’s Jesus in all of this? Loving us in sickness, just as much as in health," he said.

Recent surveys show many Americans have been increasingly turning to prayer, interceding for an end to the pandemic. Similarly, many are streaming church services online due to stay-at-home orders to prevent further spread of the virus, and are gathering in parking lots of hospitals to pray for medical personnel and patients inside.

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