Pray for Ukraine: Reflections From a Friend

As I have watched events unfold in Ukraine these past few days and weeks, I've experienced a few familiar feelings. Any incidence of violence or unrest has always deeply disturbed me, even half a world away. But it is a starkly different thing to experience such events alongside people you love and care for who are directly affected, people present in the U.S. and others stuck in the middle of a war zone. Of course your heart hurts more. Your prayers go deeper. You might understand a little more the desire to lay down your life for your friends.

As we trust the Lord for what we see, especially at a distance, often word and prayer are our primary weapons to help in battle, and we should wield both well. The words below were shared to our congregation yesterday by my friend, co-laborer and pastor of our church here in St. Louis, Sergei Marchenko. Born and raised in Kiev, his unique perspective is all the more profound in this time, and may help you to process and pray differently as well. 

The following is shared unedited and by permission.

Pray for Ukraine

This has been a surreal experience for me. I am here in St. Louis, a U.S. citizen (as of last June), a pastor of an American church watching on the screen of my laptop as historic events unfold in the country of my youth. What is happening was impossible to imagine despite all the warnings. It is still hard to believe. There is a war happening on the European soil involving an imperial power attempting to occupy and control a free peaceful nation. There are tanks on the ground, ballistic missiles targeting major cities, bombed-out schools, air raid sirens, weeping mothers, and evil, real evil.

So many emotions… Anger at Putin and the Russian army, admiration for Ukrainian heroes, grief over thousands of people killed and many more thousands displaced, disbelief at blatant lies presented and believed as “the truth,” longing to be in the beautiful city where I grew up, desire to fight, worry over family and friends in bomb shelters and traffic jams, dismay at scheming politicians, hope in God and trust in his sovereign good plan.

Another aspect of my surreal experience is that it came only three days after I finished preaching on the book of Habakkuk. For seven Sundays, I talked about the certainty of the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the possibility of hope in the worst circumstances. I proclaimed that God uses invasions and other evil things to achieve his good purposes for the people he loves. I preached that all evil, including ruthless invaders, will be punished; that justice and peace will come because God will not rest until all creation is restored. I talked about Jesus Christ who experienced the most horrific invasion when he willingly subjected himself to the experience of divine fury for us sinners. And I called my church to live by faith in this crucified and risen Savior and allow our own hearts to be so invaded by his love that we can rejoice no matter what happens. And so now I must remember what I preached. I must believe in Habakkuk 3:17–19:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

In light of what we can learn from Habakkuk, please pray with me

• For God to accomplish his purposes
• For Christians to live by faith
• For a spiritual awakening among unbelievers in Ukraine and Russia
• For justice and peace to prevail
• For violence to stop
• For evil to be punished
• For power to be used for righteousness

I highly recommend the referenced 7-part series "Habbakuk: Trusting God With a Troubled Heart," which can be found here by searching "Habakkuk" under the series droplist and dating from January 9.

Thank you for praying for Ukraine.

Related: "From Cold War to Communion: A Psalm for Ukraine"

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