9th November 2022


Marrying our prayers and world events in times like these is not easy. The whole of Christendom prays daily for the coming of the Father’s kingdom and for his people to be delivered from Evil, and yet our television screens continually bombard us with scenes of death and destruction in Ukraine [not to mention the problems faced by women in Iran, the Uyghurs in China, or ethnic minorities in Myanmar]. And so we question, ‘Does God answer prayer?’ ‘Do our prayers make any difference?’ And if we, as praying people in the West, find it difficult, how challenging must it be for the bereaved and maimed in Ukraine, itself – the innocent undergoing daily suffering whilst the aggressor has the blessing of the leaders of his church, acting out the part assigned by Jesus to false prophets.

The problem of God’s apparent deafness to our prayers is well addressed in several Psalms [13, 22, 74, 94], but most directly in the little book of Habakkuk: ‘O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?’ [ch1 v2], a verse that leads to a description which well describes the world of today, within which the key words, ‘the just shall live by faith’, occur.

God’s plan was not easy to accept when he identified the powerful Babylonians, ‘a savage and impetuous nation’, as part of his remedy to the violence already suffered by the Jewish people: the mystery of God using an unjust regime to fulfil his purposes.

But the faith that we live by is cross-centred. Elie Wiesel, in his masterpiece of holocaust literature, Night, describes the hanging of a young child who ‘had the sad face of an angel’. When someone behind him groaned, ‘For God’s sake, Where is God?’, he writes, ‘I heard a voice from within me answer: Where is he? This is where – hanging here from that gallows’, confirmation that Christ suffers with those who suffer – so how many Calvaries are being erected in Ukraine today?

John Briggs