Jen Pollock Michel wrote “20 Prayers to Pray During This Pandemic” for Christianity Today in March, while being quarantined for two weeks at her home in Toronto, Ontario.
“I felt powerless in the first weeks of the pandemic,” she said. “All of a sudden we’re all at home. It was a moment of testing. It’s easy to face doubts and wonder if prayer goes any further than the ceiling.”
The piece came after friends in a WhatsApp group began sharing prayer requests in the chat.
“I thought, ‘I’m a writer. I could share these,’” she said.
The article was in Google’s top search results for “prayers for coronavirus” or variations of that phrase for months. Through July, it’s been read by 850,000 people and has been published in eight languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Indonesian.
Churches from diverse theological backgrounds have reposted the article on their websites including St. Louis de Montfort Parish, a Roman Catholic parish in California, Life Fellowship Church, a non-denominational church in Texas, and the Village Presbyterian Church in Illinois, to name a few.
“Efharisto (Greek)/thank you for seeking Divine intervention as a source of hope in COVID fallout relief!” wrote one Greek Orthodox Church reader. “May our mighty God grant us all His mercy!”
CT Senior Associate Editor Andrea Palpant Dilley said, “In this piece, Jen Pollock Michel gives us words to pray with and also categories of people to pray for—let's pray for doctors and nurses, let's pray for missionaries, let's pray for the homeless. In a time of uncertainty and isolation, readers (including me) feel joined together through these prayers.”
After the success of her first piece, Pollock Michel also published “20 More Prayers to Pray as We Approach the Pandemic’s Peak” in April.
“Under normal conditions, there would be meals to make and hospital visits to pay,” she said. “But these are not normal days.”
During the pandemic, Pollock Michel and her family have worshiped with their Presbyterian church online. She doesn’t expect to return before September.
“We have a narrow entrance to our building, a historic 1876 church. It doesn’t allow for distancing. Leadership is going to have to get very creative,” she said.
She started writing for the Hermeneutics blog at CT in 2012. Soon after, she met Katelyn Beaty, CT’s former print managing editor, for breakfast. To this day, Michel says this was an important moment in writing career.
“I wasn’t always a person who read the headlines. Writing for Hermeneutics was a really important part of forming my faith—thinking carefully about how faith would interpret the news of the day,” she said.
Beyond writing articles, Pollock Michel is also the author of Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of "And" in an Either-Or World, which won an Award of Merit for the Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year in 2020, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, and Teach Us to Want, CT’s 2015 Book of the Year.
“I really believe in the mission of CT. CT covers subjects that are cultural, political, and social—all through a biblical lens,” she said. “Churches don’t always delve into that. You don’t always find a perspective that’s both informed and moderate.”
Pollock Michel’s editors at CT have felt equally blessed by her perspectives.
"Jen puts obvious care and concern into everything she writes. Few Christian writers can match the grace and beauty of her prose,’ said CT Books Editor Matt Reynolds. “It's equally clear, however, that Jen labors over matters of style not to exalt herself as a wordsmith, but to communicate the grace and beauty at the heart of our gospel."
Pollock Michel’s COVID-19 prayer habits are waking up at 5 a.m., writing in her journal at her desk, and reading from a One Year Bible which has passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.
“I’m reminded of the Benedictine practice of stability, this staying put which forces us to be content despite our appetite for change. We like change because it’s easier than dealing with the reality of our lives sometimes. Being home is good. It means contending with reality, not evading it,” she said.
Her and her son memorized a portion of Psalm 119 during the shutdown. She pointed out how the Psalms invite Christians into an honest conversation with God about our emotions and faith.
“On the days I struggled to rally any kind of emotion, I just kept praying the prayers.”
Kelsey Collister is digital marketing associate at Christianity Today.