As we all watch the naked aggression of an unprovoked attack on Ukraine by a Russian leader mad with power, I must admit I feel a little helpless, and a bit more hopeless. Helpless because it seems at first flush, there is not much I can do. Hopeless because it is just one more example of a world circling the drain, a humanity bent on its own destruction. So, what can one do? Pray.
Prayer, however, often seems like an act of desperation. Many hear the call to prayer as passive and insipid, a kind of bluff where we just pretend to do something. Many think that praying for peace is akin to what beauty pageant contestants say with a whitened smile when asked about what they really want. “I want world peace.” Humans have been praying for peace for, well, forever. Yet here we go again.
Prayer is more than wishful thinking. Prayer is not a magical incantation we utter, hoping that some miracle will end the hostilities. Prayer is a means of uniting ourselves with the Prince of Peace. Prayer is acknowledging that we cannot make the bombs stop, nor can we cure the bloodlust that is in our DNA with a few words. However, we can cry out to the one who has been bending the creation to the cause of peace since Cain killed Abel.
Praying for peace is like praying, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer. As Luther instructs us, “In fact, God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come to us.” The peace of the reign of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, will indeed come whether we pray for it or not. When we pray for peace, however, that divine project becomes our own.
Praying for peace in a time of war opens our eyes to see the peaceable kingdom God is unfolding in the face of great resistance. Praying for peace opens our hearts to those who suffer when power inflicts upon the innocent for vain and evil reasons – the dead, the wounded, the refugee. With our hearts open we can support them. Praying for peace in a time of war opens our minds to see more deeply that war is never a good thing. Praying for peace in Ukraine should open my hands to be the peace in the realm of life I can influence.
Lutheran World Relief is already mobilizing to care for the half-million plus refugees fleeing for their lives. You can help! Follow this link or contribute through the congregation with an offering marked “LWF-Refugees.”
Pray for peace. Be the peace. Shalom!
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor