On Thursday morning the world woke up to the news of Russia invading Ukraine. Posts calling to pray for the situation flooded social media. 

As a pastor serving in neighboring Hungary I sensed that this was not going to be a normal day in the life of our region.

As I was scrolling through my feeds my initial thought was that posting ‘Pray for Ukraine’ images might be seen as slacktivism without taking real action. But then I realized that prayer might indeed be the best strategy in this situation, when we’re faced with forces way stronger than us, physically speaking. 

So the question got reframed in my mind. Yes, we should pray. But exactly how should we pray?

Yesterday I took to my Facebook page and Instagram feed and shared some thoughts on how we can pray, and now I’d like to share them with you.

What can we pray for?

For the heart of leaders and politicians.

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” The ideas controlling the thoughts and decisions of political leaders make a lot of difference. God is the one who has the power to shape someone’s thoughts, change someone’s heart, depending of course on the person’s cooperation. Praying for a change of heart in a politician is a powerful thing to do.

For those who mourn, for the widows and the orphans, and all who are wounded spiritually.

Scriptures make it very clear that these groups have a special place in God’s fatherly heart. Psalm 34:18 states that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Let’s pray for those who will suffer loss in this war. Living in this part of the world, I’ve witnessed first hand how political events can leave their mark on the soul of a nation, and each nation is made up of individuals. War has a spiritual component to it–the adversary of humanity is keen on wrecking peoples’ souls. It’s in his interest to leave people traumatized and without hope, to the level that they wouldn’t fully recover even years and sometimes decades after the military conflict ended. My prayer is that trauma and loss would be minimized, especially in the lives of children, who are the next generation.

For the church in Ukraine.

Each crisis situation is an opportunity for the gospel. The message of hope shines brightest when hopelessness is rampant. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will fill and strengthen our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, regardless of denominational affiliation, so that they would be giving a strong testimony of the Prince of Peace, and that they would be able to support the recovery of the physically and spiritually wounded.

That God’s Kingdom would come.

Yes, I realize I might seem to be out of touch with reality, but the Bible does speak about an era when war will be a thing of the past. Isaiah 2:4 describes the reign of the Messiah in these words: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” The one ‘good’ thing about a war situation is that it has the potential to dismantle human visions, false senses of hope and security stemming from imperial ambitions, and instead move many hearts to the point where they cry out ‘your kingdom come’.

Praying in the Holy Spirit

Let us pray in the Holy Spirit as Jude 20 calls us to. Before we pray for Ukraine I highly recommend that we’re silent before the Lord for a few minutes, asking God to reveal to us how to pray and what to pray for. Media bias and fake news is a global phenomenon, but is especially rampant in this part of the world. Our prayers should be fuelled by the Spirit, rather than any biased media.

I realized this is not a complete list, and I’m curious to read how the Spirit is leading you to pray. Please add your thoughts in the comments.

Attila Nyári serves as the chief of staff for the Lausanne Movement, supporting the global executive director / CEO. He is also the lead pastor of Golgota Kistarcsa, a growing church plant in the Budapest agglomeration, and is currently pursuing an MA in global leadership at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

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