By Henrik Sonne Petersen
Many of us have gathered to pray for Ukraine these past weeks. Some of us have even been invited to pray with Christians from both Ukraine and Russia. But it has not been easy to pray. How do I pray in times of conflict and war?
The Bible describes several approaches to prayer:
The Psalms reverberate with prayers that give voice to anger, fear and anxiety, alongside joy and overwhelming relief (when the Psalmist realises that God is present amidst this troubled world). A repeating chorus throughout many psalms is: “Why are you downcast, my soul?… Put your hope in God”. We are called to patience and hope, looking out for God even in places where he seems not to be.
We see Jesus embodying another approach when Jesus says to priest, who has lost his daughter, “Do not fear, only believe”. It sounds insensitive, even arrogant, to say something like that to a person who has lost a family member. But Jesus calls this man, and us, to resist the temptation – even when faced with death – to let fear take over. Faith, not fear, should lead what we think, believe and do.
I’m sure there are also other ways to pray. But let’s reconsider the question: How do we pray facing war, insecurity and evil? I wonder if Jesus might respond: ‘This is how you should pray… Our Father…’ When we pray the Lord’s Prayer with war and conflict at the front of our minds, we see that it involves so much – solidarity with the suffering, seeing God’s love at work, resisting temptation, God confronting evil… Sometimes the prayer, Our Father, is the only suitable response to impossible situations.