The fifth thing on my Top Ten list of things to do when the world is at war is pray.
Some may say - Why isn't prayer first?
Well, this is my blog, so I guess I can do whatever I want. But, the serious answer is deeper than that.
I often think people of faith use prayer as an excuse for personal inaction. I sure do.
I think we use prayer as a way to feel self-satisfied and virtuous. I sure do.
I think we use prayer as a cover for our own privilege. I sure do.
I find that white, privileged folk often use God as an excuse for doing nothing about injustice. I sure do.
We see Black brothers and sisters discriminated against and we blithely whisper platitudes about how "God is in control" and then we go on with our day, kind of like the religious leaders passing by the injured man that only the Samaritan stopped to help. (See the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10). I sure do.
So, I chose to put prayer as #5 on my list for a reason. I want to make sure that as I am praying, I am also acting.
As I pray about Ukraine, I want to make sure I am also:
Then, I pray.
I find that when circumstances feel too big and overwhelming pre-written prayers help me find words, provide a scaffold for my thoughts, and bring focus to my scattered anxieties.
Here are two I like, that are specific for this moment:
A Prayer for Ukraine
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.
(Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Stephen Cottrell)
And this one, written by the anonymous wife of a Ukrainian pastor, as she is fleeing from her country:
Father-God, may the attackers’ fingers freeze; may they drop things; may they not see clearly; may their equipment malfunction; may they experience overwhelming hopelessness, enormous fatigue and a complete loss of any desire to fight; may their communication be broken; may there be confusion. Lead them to surrender. Stretch the kilometers before them into endless kilometers of nonadvancement. Remove their leadership and replace them with people who make decisions that reflect a fear of you.
Oh, God, infuse defenders with incredible surges of renewed alertness, strength, hope, courage. Inspire those who want to help. Show them specific, effective ideas. Move them swiftly and safely.
The worst is yet to come, Lord, if you do not stop it. But please, no peace where there is no peace. We ask for peace united with righteousness and truth.
God of all comfort, be physically present with all the mothers, fathers, grandparents and children who are hiding, hearing, smelling, enduring. Warm them; fill them with food; give them water, toilets, communication with their loved ones, the Gospel, hope in you.
We repent of making idols of political leaders and news outlets. Forgive us for wanting them to be our gods and saviors. Forgive us for being unreasonable, for not wanting to admit both the good and bad in all of our leaders. It is this spirit that leads us to dictators because we abandon responsibility and reason. We confess the seeds of war that live in our own hearts.
We humble our hearts, our bodies. We ask you for mercy. Thank you that you love mercy and have all power.
And now may each of us pray with our words, but also, even more importantly, with our deeds.