COVID-19 has closed down in-person worship, at least for the time being, but at Times Square Church in New York City, weekly Tuesday evening prayer services go on as usual because these online virtual gatherings have welcomed thousands of people from over 200 countries for more than five years. The weekly prayer meetings at this church in the crossroads of the world happen each Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET at tsc.nyc/webcasts/tuesday-7pm.
Times Square Church's online prayer meetings began on Jan. 28, 2015, and prayers have been received from 207 self-reported countries and dependencies, with the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and India being the top submitters. Prayer requests and reports of answered prayers come in directly through a website submission form, on the church's app or via text message.
As the coronavirus spreads from person to person in unprecedented numbers throughout the world, public officials have taken drastic measures to control the global pandemic within their own borders. People must work from home, schools have closed, local businesses are shutting down, the markets are plummeting and fear of the future looms in the hearts of many.
In the midst of the fear and uncertainty for the future, people are looking for answers.
"God knew this was coming," said Times Square Church leader Carter Conlon, "and we need to cry out to Him because He hears and He wants to answer our prayer. The Bible makes this clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14: 'If my people who are called by My name would humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal the land.'"
In July 2001, well before 9/11, God called Times Square Church to bring to a halt all events and activities and pray for New York City.
"We sensed something was coming that would shake this city and our nation," added Conlon. "The church sat in total quiet for weeks, praying and waiting on the Lord before the towers were hit. Since then, we have known a time was coming to this nation when everything that could be shaken would be shaken. This is such a time.
"When God called us to start the Worldwide Prayer Meeting at Times Square Church, all we knew was we needed to provide a way for people to submit their prayers online and have them display on the screen in our sanctuary so people would see them and pray," he continued. "Only God could have called us to start this prayer meeting with people from all over world for such a time as this. At Times Square Church, we knew then and we know now that the only way we are going to get through this is to come together and pray. It's time to pray!"
Since its inception, the prayer meeting has received hundreds of thousands of prayer requests and answers to prayer. As the coronavirus pandemic causes panic and anxiety around the world, this Worldwide Prayer Meeting has seen a surge of participants online who have nowhere else to go voice their fears and concerns:
—"Thank you for making the prayer meeting happen last night. I needed it. Thank you so much for your work and sacrifice, it really means a lot to me right now." —Anonymous, Florida
—"Please pray for us for protection from this virus. I have to travel by bus, have to go work surrounded with many people. We need a miracle, mercy. Thank you, Jesus." —Anonymous, New Jersey
—"I am self-isolating with my roommates, one of whom is high risk. Please pray for health and financial provision. Thank you, and God bless." —Pamela G., Brooklyn, New York
—"Pray urgently for my daughter, who needs a miracle healing from coronavirus, bad chest and body pains, and shortness of breath. Pray for her 18-month-old baby to be safe. Pray for a miracle." —Anonymous, New York City
—"Please pray. Our income is greatly affected by coronavirus; the main source of income is temporarily suspended until further notice. We're already late on rent and bills." —Ana A., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
—"Please pray for Ivan. A young man in his 20s hospitalized by the coronavirus. For his dear family. They love the Lord deeply. Thank you." —Marga, Palma de Mallorca, Spain
—"Pray for my 31-year-old daughter who has the coronavirus. She's getting worse but can't get medical care until she's in respiratory distress. She has pneumonia too." —Connie, Huntsville, Alabama
—"My roommate is receiving coronavirus treatment as of yesterday here in Qatar gulf country. Requesting for prayers and strength from you all." —George, Doha, Qatar
—"Please pray for Greece, there are two wars waging—one at the border and one with this coronavirus. Pray that our Lord gives us His peace." —Evi F., Sparta, Greece
Pastor Conlon and Times Square Church congregants believe God has prepared them for this hour.
"The church has always served as a place of refuge, solace and provision in times of crisis," Conlon said. "But the church is not the building. No time has that been clearer than now. The church of Jesus Christ is you and me. And we need to be the church wherever we are at a time like this."
The Worldwide Prayer Meeting, as it brings together the body of Christ from all over the world, is precisely that. It is the church gathering together because the people know the answer to what to do in the face of the unimaginable. And that answer is clear and urgent: It's time to pray!
Times Square Church is an interdenominational, multinational congregation located in the heart of New York City at 51st Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, founded by Rev. David Wilkerson, author of the best-selling book The Cross and the Switchblade. Over 10,000 people representing more than 100 different nationalities gather to pray together each week; finding true unity is possible through Jesus Christ.
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