There is a lot about the invasion of Ukraine that feels like other wars we have witnessed in our history. But one thing that is different is how connected we are with one another. This week I have seen first hand stories and videos from the battlefront and from Ukrainian citizens. In one video, a woman shared her experiences from her apartment in Ukraine while people from all over the world shared their support and prayers. In another, a pastor talked about the experience in his church. They continued to worship this past Sunday, and have stayed in Ukraine. They opened their church basement to those leaving multistory buildings during the bombing. A youth leader took the church van to help others evacuate.
When we pray for them this morning, we aren’t praying for a nation. We are praying for our brothers and sisters, people just like you and me. We are them, and they are us.
The best prayers we can offer are the ones people ask us for directly. Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi has invited Christian leaders to recite Psalm 31, which we will use as our prayer, and Dave will focus on in the sermon.
But as we prepare to pray, here are some prayer requests shared by people in Ukraine.
"Please pray for disciple-making in the country, safety for our people, and generosity in the midst of war. And also for discernment, as there is a lot of fake news."
A leader with the seminary asked for prayers lamenting that "the enemy is seeking to destroy Ukraine but is praying for the Russians, asking God to grant them repentance. He told people to “not panic but remember how many times God in his word says don’t be afraid. Fear equals paralysis, while prayer, trust in God and love of neighbor all give strength. He also asked for prayers for families, including his own, as the total mobilization means many are called into military duty. He talked to his own wife about evacuating and she immediately refused and said “I will be with you to the very end.”"
Another church leader asked us to pray that "God’s will spreads on earth as it is in heaven. Our mission stays the same even if we have to change geography. When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakeable hope of Christ and his gospel.
"Pray that the nation of Russia would tire of their tyrant’s rantings at home and abroad and that they would remove him."
"Pray first, to stop the aggressor. But then for peace of mind, to respond with Christian character and not from human hate."
"Please pray about Russian Christians that they would raise their prayers and voice toward the Russian government to stop the aggression; that they would not keep silent; please pray for the Western governments, of the US and the European Union. Please pray about Ukrainain Christians, that we will serve and live as the community of hope in a full sense of this term; that during these terrible times we would invite more and more people to the relationships with God and HIs children, to the relationships of love, hope, encouragement, support; that our minds and characters would continue to transform into the character of Jesus Christ."
For these prayers, we add our own. For comfort and protection for all those in danger. For peace in our world. For repentance of all those who perpetrate evil.
Let us pray today using the words of Psalm 31:
In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.
I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have taken heed of my adversities,
and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
I am the scorn of all my adversaries, a horror[c] to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
For I hear the whispering of many— terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
Do not let me be put to shame, O Lord, for I call on you;
let the wicked be put to shame; let them go dumbfounded to Sheol.
Let the lying lips be stilled that speak insolently against the righteous with pride and contempt.
O how abundant is your goodness that you have laid up for those who fear you,
and accomplished for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of everyone!
In the shelter of your presence you hide them from human plots;
you hold them safe under your shelter from contentious tongues.
Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege.
I had said in my alarm, “I am driven far from your sight.”
But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints. The Lord preserves the faithful, but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.