Texas megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress has launched a 40-day prayer campaign and is urging Christians to join him daily to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
Known as the “4:01 Challenge,” the observance calls on people to pray at 4:01 p.m. every day for the next 40 days, starting Thursday, which is the 69th annual National Day of Prayer.
The time of day was inspired by Psalm 4:1, which reads: “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.”
In a message posted on the Pathway to Victory website, Jeffress said he was inspired to launch the challenge when talking with his daughter, Julia Jeffress Sadler.
“Recently, she asked, ‘Dad, why aren’t Christians praying more about the coronavirus?’ That question hit me right between the eyes! Julia is right,” Jeffress wrote.
“The most powerful thing you and I can do to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic — and its devastating effects — is to ask for God’s miraculous intervention in our country.”
Jeffress also noted that as a “thank you” for those who sign up to participate, he promised to provide a free chapter download of his latest book.
First Baptist Dallas will be reopening for in-person services on May 31 and released a detailed plan last month for its members to review.
In recent times, many prominent Christian leaders and ecclesiastical bodies have launched prayer campaigns in addition to charity efforts in response to COVID-19.
For example, in March, Pope Francis called on Christians from all denominations to join him in reciting the Lord’s Prayer on a given time in response to the pandemic.
“Let us stay united. I invite all Christians to direct their voices together toward Heaven, reciting the Our Father tomorrow, 25 March, at noon,” the pontiff tweeted at the time.
The Vatican's post also included a short video of Francis giving a prayer with English subtitles, calling on people to “pray together for the sick, for the people who are suffering.”
“I thank all Christians, all the men and women of goodwill who pray at this moment in unison, whichever religious tradition they belong to,” Francis said in the video.
Research has indicated participation and interest in the practice of prayer has increased since the new coronavirus became a pandemic and governments imposed lockdown orders.
Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, executive director of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture, released a preliminary draft of a paper in late March titled “In Crisis, We Pray: Religiosity and the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Bentzen analyzed internet searches for prayer in 75 countries and reported that “search intensity for prayer doubles for every 80,000 new registered cases of COVID-19.”
“In times of crisis, humans have a tendency to turn to religion for stress relief and explanation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” read the Abstract. “I document that Google searches on prayer has skyrocketed during the month of March 2020 when the COVID-19 went global.”