One has to be intentional to miss news about the devastation being wrought in Ukraine. Blue and yellow. Sunflowers and bravery. They dominate social media, alternative media, and mainstream media. In the midst of this deluge of information are voices crying “the end of the world is nigh,” and others “the time has not yet come.”
How does one meaningfully pray about Ukraine? For Ukrainians? For the world?
Most importantly, all prayer is meaningful. There is no perfect prayer. There is no meaningless prayer.
Christian artist Paul Hewson, better known as Bono of U2, tweeted:
I’ve a tradition of sending a limerick to @SpeakerPelosi’s St. Patrick’s Day lunch over the years. This year the limerick is irregular & not funny at all. We stand with the people of Ukraine & their leader. It wasn’t written to be published, but since it’s out, here it is.
Oh saint Patrick he drove out the snakes
With his prayers but that’s not all it takes
For the snake symbolizes
An evil that rises
And hides in your heart
As it breaks
And the evil has risen my friends
From the darkness that lives in some men
But in sorrow and fear
That’s when saints can appear
To drive out those old snakes once again
And the struggle for us to be free
From the psycho in this human family
Ireland’s sorrow and pain
Is now the Ukraine
And saint Patrick’s name now Zelensky
Bono’s words express a powerful form of reflection and prayer, drawing past and present together to give voice to ponderings of mind and soul. A poem, a prayer, a plea from the heart.
I read an article in Christianity Today about praying imprecatory psalms. You know, the prayers of David beseeching victory over his enemies in the attitude of “Lord, let either you or I remove them from the face of the earth and dispatch them to that special place in hell prepared for their reception.” It was called, Go Ahead. Pray for Putin’s Demise. Bono’s limerick is less harshly stated but of like disposition.
I am blessed to have for years been part of a group of men and women that meet weekly to discuss the anxieties of earth and hope of heaven. Here’s how I described our cross-denominational Christian cadre in the acknowledgements for Church in Society: First-Century Citizenship Lessons for Twenty-First-Century Christians:
…the Thursday morning breakfast group—pastors, authors, and leaders who weekly proffer solutions to problems of Church, world, and professional sports teams, and most importantly support one another in the reality of holding on as best we can to the hem of His garment while encouraging others to strengthen their grip.
With few face-to-face gatherings over the breakfast table these last two years, we have, like many of you, adapted to gathering by virtual means. But our prayers have been just as real, just as meaningful.
This past week we had some heartfelt and informative conversation about Ukraine―people distressed, displaced, and doing their best―and President Zelensky’s address to the Canadian Parliament.
Of course, being Thursday that conversation was also taking place in light of Zelensky’s address to the U.S. Congress and the Jewish celebration of Purim.
One of us noted he was praying that, like Esther in Persia, God would use Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine to orchestrate the saving of lives, Jew―like Zelensky―and Gentile; and, as with the gallows constructed by Haman, that making war on Ukraine would be the undoing of Vladimir Putin’s pretentiousness.
Another volunteered that he had been led to pray informed by the story of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17. The giant Goliath seemed undefeatable. He taunted the army of Israel day and night for forty days before young David slayed him on the battlefield with a single stone, and cut off Goliath’s head with the giant’s own sword.
And another shared a personal connection to a Christian helping daily from inside Ukraine to evacuate refugees, making it possible for us to pray for this brave young woman by name.
We entered into a concert of prayer, each sounding the notes prepared in our hearts. Imperfect perfect harmony.
There is no meaningless prayer.
Now we, along with you and many more encircling the globe, wait on Him who hears our prayers. We put our faith in Him. We trust His answer. And, we keep praying.
*A friend graciously commented that I did not explicitly note we also offer prayers of thanksgiving. What is there to be thankful for in this war? We thank God for setting President Zelensky in his role for this time and challenge. We thank God for the prayers and generosity of millions within and outside the Church around the world who are supporting the Ukrainians―in Ukraine, refugees from this war, and in the global Ukrainian diaspora. We thank God for the protections provided over these last three weeks. We thank God for Russians who are challenging the Kremlin’s narrative about this war.