Atlanta, GA: Salvationists and friends around the world responded with passion and compassion to General Brian Peddle’s call for the international Salvation Army to ‘follow the sun’ and pray from sunset to sundown for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting when the sun rose in Samoa and continuing for more than 36 hours until the sun set in Hawaii, the ‘tsunami of prayer’ that had been called for by the General picked up pace quickly and didn’t ease off as it followed the light of the sun on its journey around the globe.
Prayers were shared in corporate online worship and prayer meetings, but also through individual and family times of devotion, and even in sharing between staff and service users. Just as the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, believer and unbeliever, the wave of prayer was helped on by people of many races, languages, economic positions and social standings.
There were several ways in which people shared with others from around the world. The most popular was through the General’s Facebook Page, facebook.com/GeneralBPeddle, which – in combination with the International Headquarters Facebook page – received more than 1,500 comments throughout the event. The sharing of content on Facebook meant that there was a potential reach of more than 125,000, and an ‘I’m praying about coronavirus’ Facebook profile frame was used by thousands of people, forming a worldwide visual witness.
On Twitter, the #FollowTheSunCOVID19 hashtag featured in more than 360 tweets, with this hashtag having an astonishing potential reach of 1,483,611 users (ie tweets with that hashtag could be seen by that many Twitter users). Tweets published by @SalvArmyIHQ and by the General (through @GeneralBPeddle) were interacted with more than 1,500 times, with a potential reach of well over 75,000 Twitter users.
Instagram, which tends to have a younger user group, received hundreds of likes across six posts relating to the day of prayer (which contained prayer prompts and suggestions of how to pray), with each additionally being shared privately by users with their own network of followers. Combined, the six posts were seen by 6,886 users.
Another way in which people shared their prayers and prayer requests was a live blog that was hosted on the sar.my/covid19prayer site, which included a ‘virtual prayer room’ of helpful tips and prayer suggestions. The blog, which can still be read, had 448 messages and received 7,601 visits from 97 countries during the Follow the Sun period. A poll on the blog showed that around half the people were praying with others, whether as a group or with a spouse or family – demonstrating that the numbers of people engaged in prayer may be even higher than the initial figures suggest.
The figures only tell part of the story, of course. People from Australasia, Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America alike took the opportunity to follow the General’s requests for prayers that covered several subjects linked with COVID-19 and the devastating effects it is having around the world. The online content demonstrated that people were engaged in prayer but many other people will have answered the call to prayer without sharing online. Irrespective of where and how they prayed, people took up the challenge to pray … to lament; for those in need; for the army of essential workers; for an end to the virus; and for hope and joy to be restored.
Many very personal prayers were shared, including from people who have lost loved ones and others who have deep concerns for friends and family. Some wrote bravely about the difficulties they are currently facing because of the pandemic, including people who have lost their jobs and even one sailor who has been on board his cargo ship for three months, with no immediate likelihood that he will be able to return home.
So many meaningful prayers and messages were shared that it would be impossible to report them all, but here is a selection that shows the astonishing breadth of topics, styles and locations:
• Snowy from India wrote: ‘Prayed with church and prayed personally … we are together going to fight the battle and win with the best weapon, and that is prayer.’
• Kjartan from Norway said: ‘We have been praying and fasting all day and will keep it up tonight! God will help us through this, but we also pray for all the people who in any way are struggling! We also pray for this situation to stop as soon as possible!’
• Leonor, USA, added: ‘My prayers are for all the homeless who have very little or nothing. I pray people reach out to provide them with a meal.’
• Kenneth, also from the USA, appreciated the opportunity to share with the international Salvation Army, writing: ‘It was a joy to rise at dawn and join with fellow Salvationists in reaching out to the Hope of the World, Jesus Christ our Lord. People pray, God hears, things happen. To God be the glory!’
• John, in the United Kingdom, commented: ‘As part of our family worship at home, we included prayers for all those affected by the pandemic, particularly those who face financial hardship and find it difficult to feed their family. Our children love Jesus, love to worship and loving communing with God.’
• Emmanuel was part of a 12-hour prayer session in Accra, Ghana and added: ‘We pray that God will heal our land. May the isolation not kill the faith of believers.’
• Jenni, Australia, was energised by being part of the worldwide prayer tsunami. ‘What a day!’ she wrote. ‘God has been faithful and those praying know he is with us. God has all his plans in place and we do not need to fear or worry. He goes with us into every circumstance. Thank you, Lord, for the most amazing day of prayer and the reassurance that only you can give. Be with those who mourn and bring them your comfort. Bless all our essential workers and the elderly who are more at risk than most. Bring your mighty power into this situation for all the nations around the world and give us your peace in Jesus name.’
• The leaders of the Sri Lanka Territory (Colonels Suresh and Martha Pawar, and Lieut-Colonels Stephen and Theresa Malins) joined the prayer-wave as dawn broke in Colombo, sharing: ‘We pray for the Great Physician to heal hurting, scared folk on the island, we pray that food would be prepared and available for the needy, we pray for the staff – medical and government – who have played important roles in the fight against the virus on the island. We thank God for The Salvation Army worldwide and its amazing contribution to helping and supporting … and we pray continued strength and wisdom for our leaders.’
• Manila Tondo Corps (church) in The Philippines shared comforting words from Psalm 4: ‘Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.’
• Anita, from Kampala, Uganda, prayed for the whole world and sought ‘God's healing hand to come upon us, to forgive us and have mercy on us’.
• Dani shared: 'We prayed tonight in Guaianazes Corps, in São Paulo City, Brazil. We believe in the power of prayer and surely God will listen to every need in that tsunami of prayer and things are going to happen!'
Reacting to the unprecedented time of international sharing, the General was keen to show his appreciation for everyone who had responded to his call to prayer. In a video message, alongside thanks and recognition he included words of challenge: ‘I think that now the real test begins,’ he said. ‘We must believe that God will now answer our prayers. People are still suffering. Sadly, people are still dying. I hear the lament, I see the tears. People are still on the frontlines, while others are unsure, uncertain and afraid. Let's continue to pray and anticipate God's response. And be careful, then, to give him the glory.’
He added: ‘I believe God is sending our Army to serve others at such a time as this. Please be safe in all that you do – but be his church in a world that needs our God whom we love and whom we serve.’
Report by Kevin Sims