Prayer for Ukraine
Thunk-Boom. I’m not a big fan of the fourth of July. I do feel honored, privileged to have been born in the United States. I love that people can emigrate to this country, go through a process and learn about our Constitution and history - the great experiment of this democratic republic - take a pledge and be sworn in at a naturalization ceremony. (I invite you to attend one of the ceremonies sometime. They are moving and inspiring.) But I’m not a big fan of the fourth of July.
Thunk-Boom. It’s not the meaning behind our celebration, it’s the fireworks. If you push me, I can admit that the colors are pretty; I’d be blind to not notice that. But in general, I try my best to stay away from the sound of explosions. The Thunk-Boom just awakens trauma.
Soon after our second son, Addison, was born, I went on a month-long trip through the Middle East and Central Asia. It was a long time to be away from home. My trip ended in Afghanistan. It was 1996. I found most Americans, at that time, had no real idea where the country was or anything about its history. The Taliban was in control of various parts of Afghanistan. As I was traveling in a jeep through the Khyber Pass, I learned it was expected that their next target was Jalalabad - the city to which I was traveling. After arriving in Jalalabad, I visited the bazaar and ate various fruits and special dishes. But that evening, I heard the first explosion. Thunk-Boom. I believe I had a full-blown panic attack. Thunk-Boom. The sounds were not getting closer to the city, but nonetheless they are now embedded deep in my soul: the distinctive thunk of the cannons sending shells, and the exploding boom when they hit their targets. Twenty-six years later, I can still smell the panic that surrounded me that night.
When I arrived home and saw Patti and the boys waiting for me in the International Hall at JFK, I went to my knees and kissed the ground before embracing my family. Until then I did not truly understand the gift of being an American.
Today, seeing the news, hearing the Thunk-Booms happening in Ukraine, brings back that trauma. I grieve for the people of Ukraine, knowing that the anguish and destruction will stay with them throughout their lives. There is absolutely nothing exciting about war. Soldiers who train for years have told me they too are haunted by the memory of those sounds. War is dark. War is filled with evil. War is wrong. (This podcast is purposely not political, but I can’t just watch and not speak out about the savagery of one country invading another.)
It is heartening seeing our world uniting against cruel actions, but many of us are left with the question, “what can I actually do to help this situation?” My response is simple. Jesus said, “love one another.”
Help people in your neighborhood who need resources to afford energy costs, food security, and childcare (there are plenty of vetted organizations and ministries where you can share your resources).
Don’t grumble when oil and gas prices rise, start a ride-share.
Practice love and kindness in your daily lives as you desire for it to be found in Ukraine and other struggling parts of the world.
Find out who your neighbors are by name and check to see if they need any help.
Don’t stop at your lawn once the grass starts to grow. Mow the ditches and the neighbor’s lawn as well.
And, yes, above all else, pray. Pray for protection. Pray for hope. Pray for peace.
My Dearest Creator of the Universe, by the power of your Holy Spirit, bring the peace of Christ to the world, and most especially this day to Ukraine. Lord, our hearts ache and grieve as we see the assault and destruction upon the people of Ukraine. We know that it is only you who can invade the mind of Vladimir Putin. Shock him with a profound sense of your presence and convict him to seek humility and end the violation of the basic human right to life.
Protect the people of Ukraine. Bring them protection, comfort, and hope. Shield them from the long-lasting trauma of bombs and destruction.
Protect the Russian soldiers who are struggling with their purpose. Give them the courage to lay down their weapons and not follow the path of tyranny. Embolden massive crowds in Russia to fill the streets, protesting against their leader in courageous ways.
Gracious God, continue to convict your citizens of the world to do all we can to stand up for freedom and not stay seated complaining about being left without opportunities to help. And most especially, help us to deeply listen to you; to love one another - those close by and those far away.
To the glory of your Holy name we pray. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.