War has broken out again in Europe, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s and all its inherent suffering and crimes against humanity. Earlier this week, Russia invaded Ukraine, clearly intent on marching all the way to its capital, Kyiv, and forcing regime change. There have already been scores of casualties suffered by both Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, and Russian mothers and fathers are also grieving the loss of sons ordered into battle by a power-hungry leader. As of Saturday morning, there was no end in sight to the hostilities and the carnage.
What can Christians do in unbelievably tragic times like these? They can pray. And that’s exactly what ministers across the world are asking Christians to do: Pray for Ukraine and for our world leaders.
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, tweeted, “This morning we were awakened to the news that Russia has launched a military campaign against Ukraine. Pray for the people of Ukraine and for this conflict to end quickly. At @SamaritansPurse, we have many friends in both Ukraine & Russia.”
Andriy Rabiy, auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, said, “When [the invasion] happened, we started thinking here in the parish right away. We put out a call that we are going to have a divine liturgy or a mass for the war to stop and also for peace to come back again to the country. Even though it was done within an hour, we had 50-60 people in church [in the] early morning.”
International Mission Board (IMB) President Paul Chitwood said, “With the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, we join all those in Eastern Europe in praying for peace.” He added, “We know that God is sovereign in all situations, and scripture reminds us that He is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We keep our focus on Him, asking for His protection of the innocent and trusting that His justice will prevail.”
Yaroslav “Slavik” Pyzh, president of Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “You can pray for peace in Ukraine, for God to stop all Putin’s plans. Pray for the church to be vital in helping people and being a light to the world. Pray for our army and government.”
He also said that churches would help people during the fighting. “Churches already agreed. Those that are on the western part of Ukraine … told our brothers and sisters in other parts of Ukraine [that] if something happens we will open our homes and our churches to you.”
And he expressed resolve, saying, “The church will go underground. You have to understand that historically we had that experience before under the Soviet Union. So, the church did not forget what does it mean to be persecuted, and I think that we will rearrange, reorganize, and still do what we always do, still preach the gospel.”
Daniel Johnson, founder of New Life Radio in Odesa, Ukraine, said,
“Christians in America can play the most important role in this crisis by supporting every effort to partner with those ministries that communicate the Gospel and essence of the Christian faith to the people of Russia and Ukraine. This is more important than any function the American government can assume via negotiations or sanctions, and only the influence of the Gospel can make any meaningful change in this situation. We urge Christians in America to pray for peace and resolution between these nations, and for prayer that the Christian community might rise up and demand their leaders apply Christian principles to their political actions.”
In a global horror like this, it is easy to be overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel helpless as if there’s absolutely nothing you can do. But that isn’t true. You may not be able to change the hearts and minds of global leaders nor thwart the plans of men who command armies, but you can directly petition the One who can: the Sovereign God of the Universe. You can’t control anything, but you can go to the One who controls everything.
Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (NASB1995)
God not only controls the hearts of government leaders, but He also owns everything in the entire world. Deuteronomy 10:14 says, “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.”
In Job 41:11, when God is reminding Job that he has no right to question the Lord, God says, “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”
Ultimately, all of Vladimir Putin’s missiles, guns, tanks, and soldiers actually belong to God. And while God sovereignly and mysteriously allows men to make choices and to use the things of this earth, if and when God so chooses, He can do whatever He wants with those weapons, those soldiers, and their leaders. So, we should pray that He frustrates their plans.
Think back both historically and biblically. How many times did God deliver Israel? Whether it was from the Egyptians, the Philistines, or any other group who attacked, God stepped in. God raises the dead, heals the sick, gives sight to the blind, and, perhaps most miraculously of all, He changes the hearts of sinners. There is always something He can do if we ask Him.
If you’re like me, you haven’t even wanted to think about this war or any of the ramifications of the actions of world leaders. This is a frightening time. The world is already reeling from the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, lockdowns, mandates, crashing economies, moral decay, and a surge in crime and violence, and now we have to deal with war? It’s enough to make anyone feel anxious and even despair. Yet even in the fear, we can be confident that God is in control. And we can pray and ask for Him to work mighty wonders with His outstretched and strong arm.
Now, I don’t know what He will do — whether He will grant our requests to swiftly end this war and save Ukraine, or whether He will allow, for purposes beyond our understanding, Putin to take over. But that’s not ultimately for me or you to know, and we don’t need to know the future in order to pray in the present.
I want to bury my head in the sand and forget about this, but the people of Ukraine and Russia and possibly the world need me and you to pray. Because of this, and by God’s grace, instead of burying my head in the sand, I will get on my knees and put my head in my hands, and I will pray. It might not be with eloquence and a deep understanding of all the foreign policy issues, and it certainly will be with my fear and anxiety. But I will lay it all down before the Lord, praying with confidence that He can bring good out of this situation, and even gain glory for Himself.
So, please join me in praying for Ukraine. For Russia. For their people and their leaders. For President Biden and other leaders to have great wisdom. Pray for peace, for safety, and that Christians across Ukraine would be a bright witness of the Gospel in these dark hours. Pray for all people who are under the hellish realities of war that they would have their hearts anchored in Heaven, in Christ, and the hope of the Gospel.
Pray, come what may, like Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”