25th April 2022

The conflict in Ukraine impacts on all of us – not just in terms of material shortages but also the way it dominates our thinking and our praying. How should we pray for Ukraine? How specific should our prayers be? Is there a danger of telling God what to do by the way we frame our prayers? And how does all this challenge our belief in the power of prayer? Does God really answer prayer? What difference do my prayers make? The temptation is to allow the situation to control the way we think, and pray.

Might we better start the other way round, beginning with God, learning from the Lord’s Prayer how we should pattern our prayers. We should then start with ensuring the way we live our lives hallows his name, and out of that context, pray for the coming of his kingdom – the domain where his rule is extended over all things and all people, who together ensure that his will is done. But we must not omit our responsibility for the way things are, and so we need to confess our sins and our nation’s sins – playing loose with Christian values in the west does give some credence to the criticisms by the Russian Orthodox Church of our liberal moral outlook, though not condoning their blessing of violence. How far do the market economics that seem to determine government policy create the inequalities that destabilize our world? Then there is the undertaking we make when we promise to ‘forgive those who sin against us’. That might be easy in Bristol but what if you are saying your prayers in Kiev? Recognition that we are ‘sinned against’ is important, but so is the call to forgive – even those who resort to violence against our very being. And it all adds up to a prayer to ‘deliver us from evil’ by the one who owns ‘the power, the glory and the kingdom’. Amen.

John Briggs