My heart grieves over what is going on in and against Ukraine. Yes, I was one of many who naively thought that civilization was beyond this…beyond rogue leaders being able to mobilize a national army to destroy a peaceful nation with brutal disregard for all human life. The Ukrainians have faces and families, connections to my world, to our world. My friends have taught in Ukraine. My sons’s best friend is Ukrainian; though he lives in the United States, he has family there, or perhaps had family there. When disturbing war images first invaded my television, I had a hard time falling asleep at night; when I did fall asleep, I woke up thinking about the women and children trying to flee, the men — and women — staying behind to fight an army that far outnumbered them. These days, I often fall asleep praying for God to intervene in the attack on Ukraine.
I pray because this is spiritual. We see the physical attack in 3D on the news, but this is just another round in an invisible spiritual war that has raged since the Garden of Eden when Satan first tried to destroy God’s most prized and precious creation — people. This is spiritual. At Ukraine’s National Prayer Breakfast held before Russia’s invasion, event Coordinator Pavel Unguryan said more prophetically than he knew, “Ukraine has become the epicenter of a global spiritual battle.” According to Christianity Today, “Two-thirds (65%) of the population identify as Orthodox Christians (split across three groups), 10 percent as Greek Catholic, and a further 8 percent as ‘simply a Christian.'” There are lots of people seeking God in Ukraine. On the other hand, Putin prefers to stamp God out, increasingly oppressing Christians. Russia adopted a law in 2016 making it unconstitutional to be a Christian, despite the Russian constitution saying that all are free to profess any faith. The law specifically increases regulation of evangelism, including a ban on the performance of “missionary activities” in non-religious settings. Under this law, anyone who declares Christian belief, publicly invites someone to church, or shares an invitation to a Christian conference on Facebook can receive a huge fine or be jailed for up to 3 years. Sometimes even attending church brings these penalties and punishment is worse if you are a pastor or church leader. Putin has set Himself up against God and aligned himself with Satan, evidenced by the Russian ruler carrying out his plan to steal, kill and destroy in Ukraine. Unequivocally, this is spiritual.
So I began to look in scripture at how God intervened in His peoples’ battles and started praying accordingly. In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 20, men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir were coming to attack God’s people. So King Jehoshaphat, representing God’s people, prayed fervently. “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (Does an unfair invasion by an outnumbering army sound familiar?) Well, in a nutshell, here’s what happened. God sent directions to the King saying (paraphrased), “Don’t worry, just go out there and face them tomorrow. I will be with you.” And, in fact, God went before them. Scripture tells us God, Himself, set ambushes for the ungodly men who were coming against His people so that the attackers fought against each other! “The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.” (2 Chronicles 20:23)
And that is what I started praying. “Lord, you know that an army of godless men are trying to destroy people in Ukraine. Please throw the invading army into confusion and cause them to destroy each other. Please bring relief to Ukraine, go before them and fight for them.” Recently, I was scanning headlines (admittedly looking for any good news on the conflict) and saw numerous publications reporting that Russian troops had been “shooting themselves in the leg” in March to avoid fighting and allegedly even shot down their own aircraft by accident. In late April Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence reported intelligence saying that two groups of Soldiers of the Russian Federation (one from Chechnya and another group from Buryatia) shot at one another in occupied Kyselivka. Over 50 soldiers on each side took part and the exact number of casualties and fatalities was unknown.
Now don’t get me wrong. It is not my habit to pray that anyone would “take someone else out.” All life is given by God and only He has authority over life and death. His plans are right even when I don’t understand them and history shows that God is able to use even evil things people do for good outcomes. Perhaps God is opening people’s eyes to our need for Him or awakening skeptics to the fact that Satan is still roaming the earth looking for people to devour. Also on the side of good things, we certainly see the free world uniting against this Russian campaign of terror in an unprecedented way. I don’t know all the good that God will bring from this, but my heart longs for the evil to stop.
By the way, before I prayed for the invading soldiers to fight against each other, I prayed that God would grab hold of the hearts of Putin and his soldiers. I prayed God would turn these men from evil to good, moving them to see their actions as sin against God and the humanity He created. Yes, I prayed that Putin and his soldiers would repent, be saved, and be transformed into people who follow Jesus Christ to His glory and who love and care for people. I know that nothing is impossible for God. I still pray that, but I also pray that God would intervene for His people as He did in biblical times. I don’t have any influence over Putin, but I know the God who has influence, even total authority, over all things. I know He hears my prayers. So I’m going to keep praying for an end to the suffering, however He chooses to do it. Nothing is impossible for God.
How are you praying today?