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A Call to Prayer

2 months ago

In this week’s Blog Kevin Roberts, our former Director, reflects upon the tragic events of the last few days and on the call of the Pope and other church leaders for a Day of Prayer and Fasting on Ash Wednesday. He explores how we should pray for a crisis of such magnitude, as we make our contribution in prayer to the cause of peace with justice.

The events in Ukraine in the last few days have shocked the world and disturbed our spirits. I don’t think any of us can have been unmoved by what we have seen on our television screens. The scandal of tanks and other weaponry of war entering a democratic county on our own continent. The deceit of President Putin’s lies laid bare for the world to see. The fear at what this invasion prefaces for the future and what this malign regime might inflict in Ukraine and beyond in the years to come. And the horror of the suffering needlessly inflicted on people in both Ukraine and Russia in the name of a warped ideology and a distorted view of history. It all feels so wrong. It is, as our two Archbishops have said in uncharacteristically but necessarily strong language, “an act of great evil”.

A call to prayer

It’s not surprising, then, that church leaders are calling the church to pray, and that the language of prayer is being used even by our political leaders. The Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church made “repentant prayer for Ukraine” his first call in a pastoral letter this week to the people of his largely Christian country. Pope Francis has called for a global day of prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday, 2 March, which leaders of churches in the UK have been quick to endorse and which we at ReSource are encouraging.  And I for one have been grateful for the prayers and prayer resources that have filled my Facebook page this last week. Prayer is what we do as Christians. It is our defining and universal language. It is our distinctive contribution to the cause of peace. Prayer is our instinct and our life breath and our secret weapon against the forces of darkness.

So how are we to pray for Ukraine in its time of trial? Just a few thoughts, none of which will surprise those of you who pray regularly for the needs of the world

Praying from alongside

Firstly, we should pray empathetically. Some of you will know that my wife and I have been on a tough journey this last year since Anne’s cancer diagnosis. What has kept our spirits from drowning has been the knowledge that so many people have prayed not just ‘for us’ but ‘with us’, somehow entering our world and praying from right alongside us. On several occasions people have told us that they have been praying for a quite specific bit of our circumstances or interior journeys and I’ve thought ‘how did you know that that was what we were going through’. In other words, they have prayed empathetically, getting down and dirty into our story. And we have been enormously grateful.

And, costly as it might be for us, let’s pray empathetically for all those caught up in the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, and pray from the heart: for those already grieving the loss of loved ones on both sides of the conflict; for parents in the grip of fear at what might befall them and their children; for conscript soldiers in the invasion force repulsed by their own actions; for military and political leaders carrying heavy responsibility for the decisions they make. For those in the grip of falsehood and dark forces. For the poor, the vulnerable, those who feel abandoned and bereft. Let’s join the Holy Spirit in His ceaseless and empathetic intercession for all those caught up in this crisis and its wide implications.

He is exalted

And, secondly, we should pray with conviction that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. I have found myself going to Psalm 46 a lot this last week, with its deep confidence that God can make a difference for Jerusalem and its people. That God isn’t constrained by the humanly possible. That He is v10 “exalted among the nations, exalted in the earth”, transcending the contingencies of what is ordinarily possible and always able to do immeasurably more than we think possible, even in our wildest hopes and dreams.

I want to claim so much of this Psalm for Ukraine and its people: that God v1 will be their “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble”. That “they will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”. That because “God is in her, v5, she will not fall. That He will help her at break of day”. That v9 “He will make wars cease, breaking the bow and shattering the spear and burning the shields with fire”.

God can do these things, because He is God and not man; and what David knew of the transforming power of God when he wrote this Psalm, we can know now and pray over this conflict. Listen to the deep undergirding conviction of the psalmist in the refrain in vv 7 and 11 “the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”. v10 “be still and know that I am God”.

Let’s pray with empathy for Ukraine and its people. Let’s pray believing in the irrepressible and overarching power of God to change even the most unpromising of situations.

The new creation

And, thirdly, let’s pray (dare I say it) eschatologically. I have thought a lot this year about the shortness and fragility of life, about death and endings, but also about resurrection and eternal life and the much bigger and deeper and longer canvas upon which our lives in Christ are lived, into ‘an eternal glory that far outweighs our light and momentary troubles’ as Paul so eloquently puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:17.

After some dark days and months Anne and I can look back upon a level of healing that at the beginning we were told was simply not possible. Inoperable cancer became operable and the prospect of months of life has now shifted to the very real prospect of a longer time together.

But you know, even if we both get to live our full three score years and ten, it will be a small drop in the ocean of the life we get to live in a new heaven and on a new earth. And if I’m honest one of the gifts of the last year has been the opportunity to look that squarely in the face and, with Anne, fix our eyes on something much more glorious. What did Paul say? “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

When we pray for healing and peace and hope in Ukraine, and in Afghanistan and in other broken parts of our world, aspects of the brokenness of our own country included, we need to do so with a more than occasional glance towards a Day when all these things will be present in a greater depth and reality in an entirely new creation, where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away”. Indeed, we need to look to a day of judgement when the oppressors and tyrants and warmongers of the world will have to face the searing love and justice of the righteous judge of all.

Wonderfully, God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven means that we can and will see some of heaven coming to earth, some of Then realised in the Now. Which is exactly what we are asking for when we pray for peace and healing and justice and hope. We are asking for some of the future kingdom to come into the here and now.

But even while we rejoice in its coming, our prayers are always salted by the knowledge and the conviction that there will be a still more greater Day, when “the lamb and the leopard will lie down with the goat…..and the lion will eat straw with the ox” and there will be no east and west in conflict any more. No war-ravaged cities and whole populations living in fear. On that greater Day “They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.

Let’s pray fervently for peace between Russia and Ukraine, with justice. Praying with empathy. Believing in the more that God can do. And with our eyes on the coming Kingdom, when all will be well.

God of peace and justice,

we pray for the people of Ukraine today.

We pray for peace and the laying down of weapons.

We pray for all those who fear for tomorrow,

that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.

We pray for those with power over war or peace,

for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.

Above all, we pray for all your precious children, at risk and in fear,

that you would hold and protect them.

We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Amen

Pic

The Ven Kevin Roberts

ReSource Minister, Alongside Companion

Meet The Ven Kevin
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"I found having a good guide who gave content that allowed me to go deeper with God helpful."
Attendee at St Luke’s, Southsea online retreat

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These are difficult days, and we are keen to support you in any way we can. Email prayer@resource-arm.net if you would like our Intercessors to pray for you. If you are a church leader and would value talking to one of our ReSource Ministers, please let us know on office@resource-arm.net. And look out for the weekly Blog on the website, along with other new resources. Whatever these days hold, let’s be mindful of one another, alert to the cry of a hurting world, and confident in the love of God, from which nothing can separate us.
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