“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer … If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:12,18)
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been praying a lot more fervently than I usually do. It feels like the spiritual and practical issues I’m praying about have become a lot more intense. Fervent, frequent prayer is required! I’ve also been thinking about what it means to live peacefully with all people. Wait a minute! All people?! Surely you didn’t mean to include the Russian invaders on that list, did you, God?!
Maybe this is something that you’ve been wondering about, too.
While I wrestled with these ideas, I wrote a short hymn called “This Is Our Prayer” as one way to prayerfully respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Like so many of you, I’ve been horrified by this war. I weep as I watch and listen to the suffering of refugees who have been bombed out of their homes, who have watched their loved ones die, and who have fled their homeland while being separated from their husbands and fathers, brothers and sons.
My heart aches for all the Ukrainian mothers and children who are desperately trying to find refuge in surrounding countries. They are just ordinary families, people trying to survive, to protect their kids, to find safety somewhere, anywhere. I have simultaneously been inspired by the sheer tenacity, courage, and conviction of the Ukrainians who aren't leaving, who are risking their lives to defend their country and to try to help care for the people around them who urgently need food, water, shelter, and medical care.
As a person of faith and a human being, I cannot ignore the suffering of Ukraine and her citizens, nor can I pretend that Putin's actions seem like anything other than the choices of a power-hungry dictator with a Napoleonic complex and a tenuous grasp of reality. I have been praying against the war (and praying for peace) since the war started, and I invite you to join me - in private, and in public places, too, with silent and spoken prayers, imprecatory prayers, prayers of intercession, liturgical, responsive, pastoral, confessional, and extemporaneous prayers, prayers of lament, prayers for protection and comfort, and prayers against those who are misusing power, perpetrating evil, and engaging in global disinformation campaigns.
In the face of such evil, let’s follow Paul’s instruction to “persevere in prayer.” Let us not forget the suffering of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. We are called to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) long after the news cycle has moved on to other stories. Keep praying for peace whenever and however you can!
Although I live far away from the atrocities unfolding in Ukraine, I am not rendered helpless by this geographical distance, and neither are you. In response to this conflict I am fasting, praying, giving as much money as I can, and giving my time and energy to relief projects, too. I am writing my municipal, provincial, and federal government representatives to share my thoughts and to encourage them to stand against an evil that, through the horrors of nuclear war, could profoundly affect every single person on the planet. I'm also working ecumenically, asking local, regional, and national churches to support the innocent people whose lives have been upended by the invasion.
As a Singer-Songwriter, I am also using my musical and creative gifts to raise awareness and financial support for the millions of Ukrainians who need our collective help. You can assist them simply by sharing this short video online, with your network of family members, friends, and colleagues. Please also feel free to share it wherever you think it will help people to focus their prayers for peace in Ukraine (and everywhere else that the peace of Christ is needed in this beautiful, broken world that God so loves).
I realize that there are many other wars and humanitarian crises unfolding all over the world today; sadly, the suffering of so many Ukrainian families is not unique in terms of human misery, nor are they alone in bearing the burden of this senseless, unnecessary violence and the literal destruction of their homeland. What does feel unique, at least, for many people of my generation, has been the shockingly swift shift from the peaceful, post-WWII, United-Nations-and-NATO-backed stability that so many of us have enjoyed for our entire lives (until February 2022), to whatever this precarious new balancing act will evolve into.
I pray that we will rejoice in the hope we have been given, in Christ. I pray that world leaders will find new ways to be patient and wise, even as they try to alleviate the suffering the war in Ukraine has caused. I pray that we will all persevere in prayer, asking God for mercy, for forgiveness of our hubris and sinfulness, our arrogance and pride. I pray for peace. I pray that the world won’t have to endure the suffering of WWIII. I pray for the protection of all peoples on this earth. I pray for ordinary Russian citizens right alongside ordinary Ukrainians; people in both countries are suffering the consequences of this conflict.
There are many reasons for us to be praying for peace, these days, and avoiding a nuclear holocaust is certainly one of them. Remember Romans 12:18: “if it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.” May this be true of us, not just in how we respond to distant invasions, but also in how we choose to live, today, in our Canadian neighbourhoods, with our families, in our small daily decisions. Let’s pray for peace, and then continue doing the daily work of choosing to live peacefully with each other.
It is the power of Christ within us that makes us capable of turning the other cheek when we are wronged; Christ in us fuels our forgiveness of others.
Christ in us gives us the capacity to live generously, faithfully, courageously, choosing to respond to offences with graciousness, choosing not to retaliate when we are slighted, because the Scriptures tell us that vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to us. (Try reading the whole passage of Scripture, from Romans 12:12 through to 12:21 to more clearly understand what Paul was trying to tell us about actively living peace).
Friends, not only is it possible for us to live peacefully with all people; it is actually expected of us, by God, when we are disciples of Jesus. The Scriptures also give us an important boundary to the guideline, however. We are called to live at peace with all people, as far as it depends on us. Did you catch that? It’s incredibly important. We are not responsible for the other person’s behaviour. We cannot control the sinfulness, stubbornness, reactiveness, or unresponsiveness of the other person who is causing friction or unease, conflict or frustration.
We are only responsible for our own sinfulness, stubbornness, reactions, and unresponsiveness. We can only control our part of the relationship. Any psychologist or pastoral counsellor will tell you that this biblical boundary is healthy, protective, and absolutely necessary for human growth and flourishing.
So today, and every other day that you live, and move, and have your being on this side of eternity, I invite you to “live at peace with all people, so far as it depends on you.” That’s a radical act of discipleship, and I promise you that your neighbours, colleagues, friends, and family members will notice! You will be making peace just by going about your day-to-day activities. You will be answering someone’s prayer for peace, just by daring to live this way, and it will be possible for you through the peace of Christ in you, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God and the healing of the world. Thanks be to God!
Prayer for Peace: Loving God, we thank you for the gift of this day. Help us to use it wisely, rejoicing in hope, being patient in suffering, and persevering in prayer. When we feel overwhelmed by the immense suffering of so many global neighbours who are in desperate need of help and succour, remind us that although we can’t help everyone, we are called to help everyone we can. Don’t let us scroll by blindly, or turn away from the pain we see.
Patient God, remind us that peace-making is an active, but often slow process of change – and we ourselves are the first people who need changing. Please work in our hearts by your Spirit, we pray. Kindle in us the willingness to “get involved,” to respond to the suffering of your children with thoughts and actions of love, rather than cynicism, indifference, or vengeance.
Remind us of the Jesus way, the way of gentleness and respect, and inspire us to make a difference however we can. God, please guide and direct us today; make connections, let God-incidences unfold all around us until we cannot fail to recognize them! Help us to give faithfully of our time, energy, prayer, and resources to Ukrainian families in need, and to people in other places who are also starving, suffering, in need. Soften our hearts, and strengthen our resolve to respond wisely, generously, faithfully. We pray for peace. We live for peace. We long for peace. Grant us peace, we pray! Amen.