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Grief and Good Friday: A Unified Day of Fasting and Prayer

By Linda Hoffman Kimball

For centuries believing Christians have honored Good Friday – the day of Christ’s crucifixion and redemptive death – as a day of fasting and prayer. This year, President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like thousands of other clergy members worldwide before him, encourages Church members to dedicate this year’s particularly somber day of remembrance to those two specific avenues of worship.

Perhaps you, like I, know people who currently suffer with or have recovered from COVID-19. Perhaps you have friends or relatives who have died from this grim virus. Our hearts ache for the ill, whom we are – by mandate – unable to embrace. We cannot even literally “lift up the hands which hang down.”

Perhaps you, like I, love people who are medical workers at the front lines dealing with sick patients, limited equipment, pay cuts, and concerns about their own children’s and spouse’s welfare when all of us are (or should be!) in some version of self-quarantine.

We may feel angry at “too little, too late” leadership and frustrated with dismissive attitudes from politicians who still feel invincible. We may be frantic about our income, our cabin fever, and the unrelenting upheaval this pandemic has brought to our entire planet.

I imagine many of you have been ambitious in turning this harvest of toxic lemons into creative memory-making lemonade by adding indoor adventures and family bonding time. Maybe you have been, to borrow a phrase, “surprised by joy” with the current circumstances. If that’s your situation, hooray! Please share what has worked for you, what insights you have gained, and how you have grown spiritually.

Still, for all those who have lost jobs, or who have pre-pandemic medical conditions that continue, or who suffer in isolated conditions, or who are financially, physically, or emotionally devastated – we mourn and grieve with you today especially.

Parts of our hearts still celebrate the Ultimate Happy Ending provided through Christ’s resurrection. Other conflicted parts of us can at this moment find very little to celebrate. God wants us and loves us  where and as we are – even when we deal with complex, confusing, desperate conditions and challenges. God hears our lamentations. God can and will console us in our misery – even when that help doesn’t feel as tangible as the blood and horrors we see, touch with gloved hands, inhale, and mourn over. And Christ, our Redeemer, understands better than anyone what it feels like to cry out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

So let us take our snarled, tangled, aching hearts and bodies to our God in fasting and prayer this day, leaning on the confidence of God’s unimaginable love for us. God’s love will never fail us, despite our weaknesses and failings. He forgives. He saves. He loves. And, as we are assured by next Sunday’s Good News, He lives!

In case you need suggestions on how to focus your prayers today and this weekend, I have compiled a list of prayer topics contributed by our own church leaders and others. Let us celebrate our unity and sister- and brotherhood with these faithful friends.

Here is a crisp graphic by designer Josh Asuncion which illustrates President Nelson’s call to fasting and prayer:

Like members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Anglicans unite in prayer and fasting.

So does the Navajo Nation.

Latter-day Saints, Jews, Hindus, Catholics, Coptics,  Sikhs, Muslims, Anglicans, Evangelical Christians, Wiccans, Atheists and many more unite in fasting and prayer.

Here  are suggestions for focus on April 10th as  a day of fasting and prayer from Walter Kim – President of National Association of Evangelicals:

for God’s love to be the foundation of our hope

for God’s mercy in stopping the spread of this virus

for God’s healing of those who are sick throughout the world

for God’s strength for medical personnel serving tirelessly

for God’s insight to be given to researchers seeking solutions

for God’s wisdom to guide civic leaders and health officials

for God’s peace to guard us from fear or anxiety

for God’s provision for those whose livelihoods and income have been affected by this crisis

for God’s creativity to make us agents of love and compassion

for God’s Spirit to draw people to the saving power of Jesus

These come from an ecumenical group of faith leaders in Elk River, Minnesota:

Pray that God will be glorified in the eyes of his people and the nations of the world as we humble ourselves before him and one another.

Pray that God will grant the people of God a fresh unity of relationship and purpose, along with wisdom for our city, state, nation, and world in this critical time.

Pray for the governing authorities, the medical community, and first responders as they seek to address this crisis in various ways.

Pray for protection through the worldwide application of wisdom and the release of miraculous power to eradicate the virus and heal those who have contracted it.

Pray that God will grant people peace as they call upon his name, and submit to his will and wisdom for this season and every season of life.

Pray for the families in our city, state, nation, and world as they deal with the stress of this time, and as they take advantage of the opportunities afforded by this time.

Pray that the church will boldly preach the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world so that the lost will be saved, the church will be built up, and God will be glorified in the earth.

AMEN!

 

 

 

 

About Linda Hoffman Kimball

Linda Hoffman Kimball is an artist, writer, photographer, and poet who grew up as a faithful Christian near Chicago, & joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1971 while at Wellesley College near Boston. Early on she assumed that all Latter-day Saints were articulate, inquisitive, faithful, and socially engaged since her role models in the University wards in Cambridge, MA., were. Her husband says she is “fluent, but not native” in Mormon-ese. She is a founding member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government.

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