Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Praying with our Heads Screwed on

An  image of the H1N1 virus. Knowledge is power…

B00528_H1N1_flu_blue_sml.jpgThe first rule in war: “know your enemy.” At this moment the world is facing invasion from a microscopic but deadly beast. Epidemiologists have dubbed it the H1N1 virus, and it’s the culprit behind the flu symptoms attacking millions, including, as I said earlier, one of my kids. Researchers who have developed the vaccine which will be available in October broke the virus apart in their laboratories in order to synthesize the compound that will inoculate against this sickness. Their success depended on their knowledge of their enemy. Kudos to them!


Unfortunately, H1N1 infections will likely peak in many parts of the US before the vaccine is available for distribution. This is putting many thousands at risk right now. Scientists and health department officials have done a remarkable job in record time, but the virus has outpaced their best effort.

This is where prayer can aid the battle. Just as scientists use knowledge to “laser beam” their healing force into a vaccine, so we who are praying for God’s power to “zap” this bug can and must use knowledge to inform our prayers. The more specific we can be, the more focused our faith and ultimately, more effective our prayers.


Jesus himself used different strategies to bring healing to different conditions in different contexts. He was often very specific, sometimes even using rather perplexing methods, like sticking his fingers in a deaf man’s ears, spitting on the ground using the mud on a blind person’s eyes, lifting a cripples guilt before lifting him to his feet, driving out evil spirits from a epileptic boy, even speaking to a dead child, then when she arose, telling her parents to feed her a good meal. Jesus used knowledge of each situation to target God’s power. Good information can make our faith focused as well. We should learn all we can about a problem in order to pray as directly as possible.  


I spoke recently about informed prayer with a friend named Greg, an emergency room physician and an ordained Lutheran pastor. Greg maintains an amazing balance of scientific competence and astounding faith. He has a remarkable gift of healing prayer and has seen many inexplicable miracles.  Greg can also set a broken arm, take actions to stop brain swelling in head trauma patients, stick up a dog bite. ER docs have to handle everything and Greg is among the best. Remarkably, Greg prays as he works medically for God to intervene where he cannot. And when he prays, he does so with as much specific knowledge as he can muster.

Greg shared with me the baffling challenges medical professionals have dealing with viruses. Viruses, he said, are not true living organisms. (I don’t understand this perfectly, but I’ll try to repeat his explanation as clearly as I can). Viruses are segments of DNA, sometimes even mixed between species, that present themselves to a living cell within the body. Typically immune systems can detect foreign invaders and attack them. But viruses masquerade as domestic, organic parts of the body. The cells let them inside, and once there, the viruses hijack the cell and change its essence. Viruses are foreign pieces of DNA wrapped in the organic case of a host’s cell. As that cell splits, it allows the virus to continue invading new cells. Thus the sickness grows. The only way to stop the virus is for the cell that holds it to die. The issue here is identity: if the body gets tricked into believing the virus is “normal” it will open the door for the virus to invade. Then all hell breaks loose. The way to win the battle is to bolster detection and counterattack.


Knowing even a layman’s explanation of this process can help us pray specifically about the H1N1 epidemic. Understanding how viruses deceive and invade can give us a counter strategy for prayer: We ask God – and instruct our own bodies in the name of Jesus – to rightly resist this invasion.

Here’s one example of a (moderately) informed prayer against H1N1:

“God, this virus is a distortion of your original creation of life. As an aberration it is deceiving and invading the life that you have intended. We ask now that you would strengthen each person who under attack from this virus. Bolster their immune system to first detect the invading microbes and then to send the right force to eliminate it. We pray now for all those who have not yet been hit. Give their immune systems supernatural detection power. We also leverage the power of Jesus’ name to curse these alien bits of rebellion already attacking people – today an estimated 1 million just in the US. In the authority of the One who created all life, we stand now and revoke the life of this so called H1N1 virus. We pray that your Spirit, God would give special strength and energy to each person in this struggle. And we agree with you that all things must and will come under your authority and that your rule is absolute and certain, and begins now, here, in this matter! So be it!”

What additional pieces of “intelligence” can you add to inform our prayers knowledge about this battle? How can this “wave” of intercessors pray specifically against this specific threat? If you have wisdom, share it here…

  • Danny White

    We stand in agreement in the name of Jesus Christ! AMEN

  • Kris Washam

    If prayer is for our benefit why must we be so specific? Is it the time we spend on prayer itself and research in order to be more specific. Or is it the specific detail we give to God concerning our needs that seem to make a difference. Just curious about your thoughts Mark.

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Hi Kris… Good to hear from you! Good and thoughtful question. I’ll think about this, and then address it, from my opinion later today with a blog post. Thanks for prompting the discussion. I think you’re asking something that gets the heart of some very important – and sometimes thorny – issues of prayer and our relationship with God. More later… and then I certainly invite your continued comments.

  • Heretic_for_Christ

    H1N1 is a distortion of God’s creation? This microscopic entity somehow screwed up omnipotent God’s plans?
    Hmmm! How did it get here? Do you think maybe it was planted here by The Devil?

  • Mark Herringshaw

    HFC: Sure, many things can be distortions of God’s creation. God’s sovereign power has nothing to do with him “controlling” all actions and reactions but with his (as you say) omnipotent abiltity about counter-respond every contengency with a new response. A lot of things in the world are not as God intended them. That’s why we – who are the ones who openned the door for nature to go haywire – must, through prayer, invite God to unravel the mess we’ve caused. I believe – it’s my theology – that we humans are ultimately responsible for the chaos in the world. And now, in prayer, we can finally do something – the only thing – to begin to fix it.

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