[Back to it, after my annual apartment inspection…]

Tuesday the 18th, our clergy received from our partner communion in India an e-mail requesting urgent prayer for the country and for their parish communities as the pandemic burgeons unimaginably. The dean of the conference has lost more than one family member to the COVID-19 virus. From the intense but all-too-concise wording of the prayer request, the situation with the people of India and Nepal may be much worse than reported.

Yesterday’s reporting was a severe reminder of how rapidly the virus is able to spread in locales both urban and the more remote regions as well. A Reuters map displayed the outline of India and the nether regions featuring circles of darker and lighter shades of blue coloration to identify regions of greater and lesser intensity of infections. Almost the entire nation of India was covered in blue and a plurality if not a majority of darker shading. India reported Monday that it experienced the world’s second largest death toll for a single day at upwards of 4,500, and a daily infection rate upwards of a quarter million.

Sitting in my cozy (and prepped) apartment that afternoon, one of the morning Psalms for Day 18 of the monthly recitation came to mind. That Psalm was 91, and I quote it here in its entirety:

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,

2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;

my God, in whom I trust.”

3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

and from the deadly pestilence;

4 he will cover you with his pinions,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

5 You will not fear the terror of the night,

nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,

ten thousand at your right hand;

but it will not come near you.

8 You will only look with your eyes

and see the recompense of the wicked.

9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,

the Most High your habitation,

10 no evil shall befall you,

no scourge come near your tent.

11 For he will give his angels charge of you

to guard you in all your ways.

12 On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You will tread on the lion and the adder,

the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot


14 Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will rescue him and honor him.

16 With long life I will satisfy him,

and show him my salvation


Pestilence, terror, plague, destruction, scourge… Poetry fitting for such an experience as India’s and its near neighbors… A war indeed, but a conflict engaging a microscopic enemy oblivious to more traditional defenses, visible only in the aftermath of its attacks…

Coming near to you and yours, stalking by night… It’s ‘out there’, somewhere, nearly everywhere, never sleeps nor slumbers, cognizant of neither time nor place, flatly has not the concern of a housefly for human life…

The promises of divine protection in the Psalm at first glance seem to be so out of character by contrast to the horrors described. But isn’t that the very nature of prayer? We of the Hebrew-Christian tradition acknowledge the Psalms as the Prayerbook of the Bible, and we pray them according to the vicissitudes of life encountered by our own and others around us. This Psalm is both prayer for, and acknowledgement of, the divine superintendence of even the greatest maladies faced by humanity. We share and have shared in this viral affliction with the peoples of India/Nepal, so thus we pray…

We may and ought to pray it because this Psalmist did, this author of the Davidic poetry of long ago who dared to pray such incredible assertions in the face of apparently man-made terrors, the brutality of Israel’s wars, and the social confusions that accompany and follow upon conflict. And if we pray with him in our clean, comfy abodes, so worried about how scrubbed and fit and functional the landlord is likely to find them… vaccinated to the 94 percent… so very concerned about shedding the masks that became part of our existence for a time… mostly troubled over the disgusting politicking and race-baiting utilizing tragedy for advantage… and receiving non-existent money from our governments that we know will come back to bite us? Ought I be troubled that I have it so well, all things considered, and that I may pray so easily “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty”, and that the God protects those who call upon Him?

The Psalmist did. His prayer and our own become our ‘best wishes’ for the people, before their God and ours, in this instance of India and Nepal. Prayer is never diminished by the comfort zone of the petitioner. And if I find myself personally concerned about my ‘privilege’ relative to the subject of my prayers, I find it good to ‘put my money where my prayer is’, little though it may be, so as to give material substance to the prayer, in this case the India/Nepal program of Lutheran World Relief.

That’s, folks…

Twist, twist… 😉

Father David+

Scripture quotation is from the Revised Standard Version, 1946, 1952, 1971, c. Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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