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Praying for Ukraine: Foundations

For the last two years, a small group in my church has been praying weekly for friends and churches in Ukraine. This has been very rewarding experience, with encouragements from answered prayer and a growing depth of relationship, as we stand with them in the trauma they have experienced.

However, we have had to face an important question: how do we pray? This becomes particularly challenging when we continue to face the same situation week in week out.

It’s all too easy to be led by emotions – we want to see our friends in a happier situation, we want to see a terrible war ended, we want to see justice done. We naturally tend to take sides with Ukraine against Russia’s aggression, and it seems simple and obvious to pray for Russia’s defeat and Ukraine’s vindication. Media coverage may lead us in a similar direction, or perhaps listening to podcasts gives us different perspectives. But we could slip into a mindset that does not really consider God’s purposes, and we may even be motivated by fear of the wider impact of negative outcomes. Such prayer is unlikely to be sustained, serve our friends well, or generate the faith that can move mountains.

Reading James K. A. Smith’s book, Awaiting the King, helped me to see some foundations for how Christians can approach all political engagement, including praying about the war in Ukraine.

Biblical. We should seek to line up our prayers with God’s will and character as we see them in the Scriptures. This isn’t always easy, and we need to grapple with the whole of Scripture, not just a few favourite verses. But as we try to do this, we are rewarded by greater understanding of God’s ways and by the faith that comes from his specific promises.

Christological. In everything we want Jesus to be at the centre, with his kingdom our main desire. The issue is not just how to make things easier for our friends or help Ukraine to win, but to ask what is Jesus doing in this? How is his kingdom coming even in this darkness? How can he prove his faithfulness to our friends? How will his glory be shown?

Eschatological. Our perspective is not bounded by our present life. We have a hope that goes beyond the grave through the resurrection of Jesus, with the promise of being with him forever, enjoying his rewards for faithfulness. This affects how we pray for our friends, wanting not simply to reduce their immediate suffering but to see their greatest reward as they are faithful to Jesus in these painfully difficult times.

In a fresh series of posts, Praying for Ukraine, I want to explore how these principles might work out in the specific ways we can pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

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