With coronavirus grabbing the headlines daily, we are forced to think about sickness more than we usually do. I have found myself turning to The Order for the Visitation of the Sick in The Book of Common Prayer. Dwelling on its words is like taking a walk in the mountains: it is a different kind of country to the one we normally inhabit, and it gives us refreshingly clear air to breathe. Here is one of its prayers:
Hear us, Almighty and most merciful God and Saviour; extend thy accustomed goodness to this thy servant who is grieved with sickness. Sanctify, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction to him; that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith, and seriousness to his repentance: that, if it shall be thy good pleasure to restore him to his former health, he may lead the residue of his life in thy fear, and to thy glory: or else give him grace so to take thy visitation, that, after this painful life ended, he may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
A number of things stand out. First, the sickness is seen as God’s “fatherly correction” or “visitation.” Second, a godly outcome is sought, one of stronger faith and serious repentance. Third, the outcome is left to God’s “good pleasure.” Fourth, “this painful life” is not all there is, but leads to “life everlasting.” When did we last pray like this, if ever?
Yours warmly, in Christ,
Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister)
8th March 2020