Is the Decline in COVID-19 Cases an Answer to Prayer – or Just a Matter of Science?

Over the last few weeks, government health officials have been struggling to explain why there’s been a significant drop in COVID-19 cases, in addition to corresponding hospitalizations and deaths.   

Based on state and local health agency data, the United States has experienced a 35% decrease in reported infections over the course of the last two weeks. Hospitalizations are down 30% and deaths by 22%. 

Speculation for the good news trends has ranged from greater personal vigilance, fewer “super-spreader” events, less testing and even “herd immunity” – a growing population-wide resistance to the virus. This is being attributed to the tens of millions of people already immune due to either a previous COVID-19 infection or the growing distribution of various vaccines.   

Like many things, so much of life is multi-factorial, and so a constellation of all those factors could certainly explain the precipitous and welcome drop in key pandemic indicators.  

But as a Christian, I can’t help but wonder: is the drastic drop attributable to God answering the prayers of millions of His people?  

I believe the simple answer is yes – but don’t expect to find that idea floated in many places, and perhaps understandably so. In an increasingly secular culture, faith is often either mocked or completely ignored.  

Yet, because we’ve been subjected to a steady drumbeat of all types of dark and sober predictions, including that the virus may be here to stay, even Christians may be assuming God has been somehow just allowing the virus to run its course.  

At the same time, our Christian theology recognizes that the Lord remains sovereign over all things. He’s not some disinterested or uninvolved spectator. Abraham Kuyper’s famous observation comes to mind: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” 

I couldn’t help but think of that after Dr. Marty Makary, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, suggested last week that the virus “will be mostly gone by April.”   

Given what we’ve endured the last twelve months, and the dire, even cataclysmic warnings from many officials about the next twelve, the prospect of the pandemic ending around Easter is blissfully wonderful.   

Many of us have been praying for the end of the pandemic over the past year. Speaking personally, my wife and I have gathered with our boys and earnestly asked the Lord to work a miracle – and why not?

Miracles are plentiful in the Old and New Testaments, of course, numbering over 160 by some counts. And those are only the ones captured by the inspired scribes. We read in the Gospel of John, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”   

From the wonder of creation to the dozens of extraordinary acts performed by Jesus and recorded during His three years of ministry, we accept and even expect the supernatural turn of events that we read in our Bible. 

The apparent fading of the pandemic may not constitute a miracle per se – the suspension of the laws of nature – but I nevertheless believe God has been listening to us and working behind the scenes these past twelve months.    

Admittedly, most of us have grown jaded to the twists and turns of events. Even as believers, we recognize that we’ve been born into a fallen world. Catastrophe is always unwelcome and shocking, but it’s also not very far away. God is sovereign – but man has free will. Terrorist attacks, wars, plane and car crashes and senseless violence are daily occurrences. We’ve become numb to so much bad news that when good news is reported, we’re often stunned and surprised – and then reluctant to credit God with the positive outcome.  

Instead, we tend to look for every other reason and ignore the fact that the Divine, not bound by human limitations, can and does defy every expectation.  

The late holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom once observed, “We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.”  

Why God allows suffering and yet answers prayers on His timetable and not ours is a question of the ages. But He undoubtedly answers prayers  – not always when we want but sometimes in the most surprising of ways.   

Today’s 24/7 news cycle demands explanations and analysis for everything. Why something happened and what’s going to happen next is the cathartic catnip of editors and producers. But the reality is not everything is easily explainable – especially when God is quietly or even silently directing events and circumstances behind the scenes. 

Pundits and officials will cite a myriad of reasons for the coming end of the pandemic, but don’t forget to add answered prayer to any list.

As Christians, we must continue to bring our needs and desires to God. By doing so, we can confidently embrace the words of the hymnist Anthony Showalter, who in 1887 penned the beloved lyrics, “What have I to dread, what have I to fear; Leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near; Leaning on the everlasting arms.”

Photo from Shutterstock

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