With churches shut down across the United Arab Emirates to prevent the spread of COVID-19, church leaders from various denominations in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital city, released a video on social media urging Christians to unite in prayer every day during the pandemic.
“Together, we want to speak with one voice as members of the amazingly diverse Christian community who live, work and worship in this city. We want to speak to you today about the response to the coronavirus pandemic. We are living in a time where the most important thing we can do is to love God and love our neighbors. And we can do this by following the guidelines given by the UAE government,” the church leaders said.
As people are helping to prevent the spread by staying at home and practicing social distancing, church leaders said: “The most important thing that unites us is that we pray to a God who loves us and hears us in our prayers. So we invite all who trust in God as our loving Father to join us in praying for the city of Abu Dhabi.”
In the video, the leaders present a prayer guide for people to follow that uses the first letter of the days of the week as a way to focus their prayers. They encourage people to stop and pray for five minutes at 19:00 (7:00 p.m.), because 19 is part of the virus’ name.
“In a real way, we are being brought back to the most basic discipline in Christianity—prayer,” Andy Thompson, chaplain of the Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, told Decision. “This is the season of Lent so it seems oddly in keeping that as we remember Jesus’ isolation in the wilderness as preparation for the next stage of his ministry, so I see this time of isolation as a powerful incubator for a freshly revived church.”
The COVID-19 video made by churches in Abu Dhabi is a testimony to the uniting power of prayer, Thompson said.
“The video has deeply touched both Muslim and Christian communities and we are seeing much favor—even the state sponsored media are carrying the prayer in the video for all to see,” he added.
According to Gulf News, “In a press statement, the Department of Community Development, which oversees non-Muslim places of worship in Abu Dhabi, praised the efforts and honest prayers: ‘This unique initiative comes in line with the regular awareness messages sent by the DCD to all houses of worship in Abu Dhabi, encouraging them to spread health awareness among followers and dedicate their prayers for overcoming the current challenges.’”
The need for Christians everywhere to be in prayer during this pandemic is crucial.
“I believe there is great power when the global church unites in fervent prayers, particularly about this pandemic,” Rey Corpuz, pastor of Every Nation Church in Abu Dhabi, said in a conversation with Decision. “Our suggestion to do it at 19:00 hours is both symbolic and strategic, but we can pray at any time of every day, even just for five minutes. Imagine the global impact if daily prayers are unitedly said in every language from every nation of the world.”
The church leaders in Abu Dhabi are committed to being united during this time. With technology such as Zoom and WhatsApp, churches across the city are able to encourage one another and reach out in times of need.
Matt Jones, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Abu Dhabi, told Decision that church leaders should set aside their differences in theology and practice, and come together as one.
“Don’t let race or politics or economics come between you,” he said. “Be a model for your congregations and allow God to use this opportunity to bring healing and restoration to those parts of His church that have veered away from the pattern for church laid down in the New Testament.
“Of course, pray through God’s Word—His promises, plans and purposes, for they still hold firm.
“Don’t just pray for your church, pray for the church. And don’t just pray for the church, pray for your city and nation and its leaders. Don’t pray partisan prayers. Pray for the politicians you don’t like as well as those you do.
“Pray for other nations—‘love your neighbor’ takes on a new meaning when we think in terms of nations. That would mean the church in America praying for Mexico and Canada. But don’t stop there. Pray for the entire world. Prayer knows no borders.”
The church leaders in Abu Dhabi concluded in their video: “We are the church in Abu Dhabi. God has called us to bless this city, to pray for this city and to be faithful in our witness.”