With the deadly coronavirus outbreak spreading, Christians around the world are taking precautions while publicly observing Lent, as a prominent international mission organization calls on believers to pray and fast for the end of COVID-19 that has killed over 2,700 people.
Gospel for Asia (GFA) created a Lent devotional calendar online that includes daily prayers and Bible readings as Christians remember the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert, as recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
“We are encouraging and asking Christians around the world to pray and ask for God’s mercy and grace: for those affected by the coronavirus, for their protection and strength, for the doctors who are faithfully working to bring healing and hope and for wisdom for the leaders in the nations that are dealing with this tragedy," Danny Yohannan, GFA vice president, told Fox News.
"While we know there are many who are working around the clock to find a cure, this outbreak is global in its impact and a tragedy that we should all care about and be concerned for.”
In addition to the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has halted Masses in the Phillippines, South Korea, and Italy, GFA encourages Christians to also pray for victims of sex trafficking, children enslaved in forced labor, and others suffering cruel injustice.
“Our world today desperately needs God’s intervention and grace,” Yohannan said in a statement. "The Lenten season is a purposeful opportunity in which we seek God and ask him to give us his heart for the suffering people of the world."
More than a billion Christians around the world will observe Lent, according to estimates cited by the group. But this year is different for believers, especially in Asia. Despite coronavirus fears, many find hope in the cross.
“Many Christians are rediscovering the richness of the Lenten tradition, and are growing closer to Jesus through self-denial, sacrificial giving, fasting, and times of fervent prayer,” Yohannan added.
“There are beautiful elements of this Christian tradition that are important to hold on to. Observing Lent is a hands-on way to help our hearts recapture the reverence and holy awe of God in our lives.”
The 40-year-old mission agency shares the "good news" of Jesus across Asia by sponsoring over 70,000 children, conducting free medical campus in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, drilling thousands of clean water wells and water filters, as well as bringing income-generating Christmas gifts every year for more than 200,000 families in need.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.