I’m listening to the radio, reading the news websites, and scanning social media about Ukraine. With every hour comes news of more deaths and advancing Russian forces. My heart is breaking for the brokenness of this world; for the people of Ukraine; for my friend Andrew in Kyiv who I pray is safe.
Andrew works for an organisation that fights corruption in his homeland. He is a remarkable faithful Christian, standing for truth and seeking to transform his country. This morning his posts are about casualties in the East and fundraising for the Ukrainian Army. He will stay. He may even fight. He will stand up and speak out for Jesus, truth, and justice whether in a democracy or under a Russian installed regime. And I worry about what that might mean for his safety.
And so, I’m deciding whether to give money. I’m trying to pray, but words are difficult to find and I’m feeling like an impotent by-stander, not knowing what the best thing to do or say is.
All I have is questions. How can God allow leaders like Putin to rise and succeed? How do you deal with a leader who lacks integrity and is intent on hoarding and gaining power? Might cannot be right. Is compassion and peacemaking futile with someone intent on aggression and domination? Do we turn the other cheek to Putin’s aggression (Matt 5 38-45)? What we need is a strong leader who fights might with might, not appeasers? Is this, or should this be, our fight – after all this is not on our border and there will always be wars (Mk 13:7-8), why intervene in this one?
Ask how can I pray
Sometimes as a Christian the first wise step is discerning the right questions. The second is to accept we will not see the whole picture or understand fully. The third is that in God’s economy the worlds values, tactics, and means are often subverted and reversed.
So, my personal plea is not to ask what can I do, but how can I pray? We have the privilege and the power to speak to the God of creation who stands over empires and nations, who hears the cries of his people and weeps over their suffering. We are told – commanded – time and time again to pray to the Lord. This command has never been so important.
Not understanding why, and not knowing what, is not a reason not to pray.
We pray because we trust that God hears us, because he cares for us, because he has the power to act, and because he keeps his promises. We pray because we trust who he is. The result may not be my desire, but it will be his story that unfolds. Job’s friends tried to rationalize and explain his suffering, but God tells Job that he will not and cannot comprehend the Father’s plan.
Prayer is where I beseech God, but it is also where I listen and learn to trust him. I pray for Ukraine’s defense and deliverance, but if the country falls God has not failed.
When the Prime Minster woke on Thursday with news that Russian forces were attacking Ukraine one of his first action was to call the Ukrainian President. I do not know all that was said or how long the conversation was. But it is reported that the Prime Minister’s final words to his counterpart were “I’ll pray for you.” I hope that the report is true.
Perhaps, like me, the Prime Minster may at times use that line casually and lightly, but today, especially, I hope its true, and that my prayers and his move our omnipotent God.