A Symphony of Prayer for Ukraine and the Nations
Back in 1980, one of the people in our small Christian community in Oxford had a vivid dream in which she saw Russian troops spilling into Europe, long after everyone had thought that such a threat had ceased to exist. Bearing in mind that this was nine years before the end of the Cold War, that dream made a deep impact that I have never forgotten.
I am sorry I was not able to produce this edition in time to join in publicising today as a day of prayer and fasting, but I know you will be praying already. For today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent, which people traditionally associate with repentance, when millions of believers around the world will be setting as much of the day aside as they are able to do for prayer and repentance, to devote themselves afresh to God and to confess their sins to God – their own and others.
Many of us who have been led in discovering something of the power of identificatory repentance will be bringing the sins of others to the Lord – crying out that people such as Vladimir Putin may fall to their knees and recognise that that he will soon be facing Almighty God and will have to give an account for all the people he has hurt, killed and lied to. Praying too that many others around the world, in America as well as in his homeland, will see through the false aura this sociopath has built up around him and put their trust in the living God.
Welcome to this enlarged edition of the Mashal as Ukraine – and in some ways Europe with it – is poised ‘on a cliff edge’ with the truly terrible prospect of a huge armoured column that is spread over forty miles closing in – but extremely slowly – on Kyiv. It is extraordinary that it has failed to reach the city as I am writing. The Pentagon, Andrew Neil of the Spectator and the Telegraph are all suggesting that this may be due to soldiers deliberately wrecking their own petrol tanks in order to avoid having to fire on Ukrainian targets.
If these reports are true, they would be in line with other accounts of soldiers surrendering once they found out that they were not on exercise as they had been told, but were actually in Ukraine. This article from yesterday’s Telegraph however, shows the convoy slowing down for an entirely different reason – that it was sucessfully ambushed, with many vehicles lost as a result. In other words, we cannot take anything for granted.
Elsewhere it is a very different story, a very ‘hot’ war that is being carried on only too much in line with Putin’s indiscriminate bombing campaigns in Chechnya and Syria, with his forces dropping cluster munitions on Kharkiv as well as cruise missiles and constant shelling today.
A maternity hospital in a large city west of Kyiv has been struck by a missile and is on fire, and the southern port city of Mariupol is surrounded and under continuous and relentless fire. It has also had its water and electricity cut off. In its own way this is remarkable as the city had been expected to fall within hours of the conflict opening. Lord have mercy on its utterly beleaguered defenders.These are truly terrible situations and a heavy burden (massa in Hebrew, Strongs 4853) for those of us who feel the Lord’s heartbeat deeply.
The devastation is already great and looks set to worsen day by the day unless the Lord intervenes massively. As I am writing there has been widespread devastation of the second city of Kharkiv, so reminiscent of when Russia attacked Aleppo in Syria. A maternity hospital in a large city west of Kyiv has been struck by a missile and is on fire, and the southern port city of Mariupol is surrounded and under fire and has had its electricity cut off. The city had been expected to fall within hours of the conflict opening. Lord have mercy on its utterly beleaguered defenders.
It is so appropriate to entitle this edition Symphony of Prayer, after the conference that we led here in Malvern in 1996. If ever there was a time when a ‘symphony of prayer’ across the world is required, it is now. A symphony because each one of us on the Mashal and all around the world will be bringing our own very distinctive perspective and contribution in prayer, just as no symphony is complete without each musician playing their part. Our role has been to put this Mashal together by sharing insights and resources across very wide-ranging topics to facilitate focused prayer.
As a Ukrainian believer put it: ‘With tears in our eyes we ask you, regardless of the time zone, to spend all of this time fasting and praying to God🙏…. Prayer is stronger than the strongest enemy.’ Just to state the obvious, though – we are not fighting against flesh and blood – and our warfare must most certainly include worship. I have often thought that trying to intercede for major issues without a stream of worship flowing through our hearts is a bit like an untrained man trying to lift barbels weighted for an Olympic athlete. It is worship that reminds us that it is the fulness of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who dwells within us, and worship that reminds us that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. Do keep a spirit of worship flowing as you read and pray, and soak yourself the Lord’s presence and promises – for this is the vantage point from which we can pray most effectively, and from which the power of God flows. (John 14:23, Eph. 2:6)
For just as Russian forces have been advancing on multiple fronts, so too must we in prayer. Events have been moving swiftly this past week, and the banner headlines will continue to change on an almost hour by hour basis, but much that we are sharing in this substantial compendium of stories, reports and essays, will remain entirely relevant. We hope that you will find it a not only informative edition but also an inspiring one. Do keep it in mind as a longer-term resource to refer back to as events cascade.
Amongst other important topics, we will be providing a brief overview of the ways by which Europe has finally and dramatically woken up to the threat that Vladimir Putin poses, as well as links to two helpful essays that explain both the history of Ukraine and why Putin’s Orthodox faith impels him to feel that retaking Kyiv and Ukraine is, for him, both so important and so right.
May each item in its own way draw you into prayer. Can I suggest that we begin by listening to this brief but poignant unaccompanied piece that Grace Nadine brought near the start of our conference? Although it is less than a minute long, I will pour out my Spirit upon you is a cry that is so worth taking to heart. You may well want to absorb its message by listening to it several times.
- Pray for Ukraine and Ukrainian believers
- Once Putin’s mask was off, the West has taken an unexpectedly united stand
- Pray for President Zelensky . . . and for Ukrainian refugees
- Pray for Ukraine’s defence forces
- Kyiv in extreme danger
- Pray for the work of God’s people in Ukraine
- Many are responding to the Lord
- Psalm 55
- Understanding Vladimir Putin
- Understanding why Ukraine matters so much to President Putin
- Should we take Putin seriously when he speaks of nuclear weapons bombs?
- Pray for ‘craftsmen’ who can restrain and ‘declaw’ the Bear
- The role of Sanctions
- A moving letter from Russia and call to pray for the Russian people
- A Panorama of the nations
- Pray concerning wider threats: Scandinavia and Taiwan
- Pray concerning Cyber attacks
- A new form of politics – and the Lord Who loves to turn up!
- Symphony of Prayer and Worship: Resources to help us pray
Pray for Ukraine and Ukrainian believers
The whole world has seen how determined Ukrainian people are to defend the homeland they love so dearly. After eight years of gruelling war in the east of the country, and the constant strain of having Russian troops encamped on its border – not to mention having to deal with some 300,000 cyber-attacks in 2021 alone, they are in deep shock but in no mood to give up. Always, perhaps, at the back of many people’s minds are the terrible events of the Holodomor, when Stalin deliberately starved something like 13% of the whole nation to death.
As we have been sharing in recent editions, a very high proportion of all Ukrainians name and honour the name of Christ, whether of Catholic or evangelical persuasion. At the same time, we are not pretending that it is a nation of saints. As in so many places, corruption is widespread, as is ugly racism. All the more reason, then, to pray that Jesus will be Lord over the whole of Ukraine today, from the President downwards – and from the street sweeper upwards.
Pray, too, for the three million Ukrainians who reside in Russia, and who will now doubtless be needing to leave – as well as for many Russians who are desperate to leave their country right now, fearing that a new Iron Curtain is in the process of coming down.
Pray that believers will be given very clear guidance by the Holy Spirit. Pray for miracles of protection. Pray for much comfort and prayer to be shared amongst those huddled and seeking refuge in basements and metro stations.
Where people are herded together in metro stations, with a press of worried children and cats and dogs around them, strike up relationships Lord. Let praise flow from the mouths of those who know You. Let godly new relationships be made and friendships forged that would never have happened in the ordinary run of things. May ground be taken for You in hearts in the world below of the metro stations of Kyiv. May many hear Your call to seek You while You may be found. (See Isaiah 55:1-5). Thank You, Lord.
Bring comfort to children and hope to fearful families. Let there be a turning of hearts towards the Lord, the Almighty, and may people experience your divine presence in ways that have eternal significance. Send angelic reinforcements and support around Ukrainian towns and cities, Lord!
Come by the might of Your hand to keep Ukraine from being overwhelmed, Lord, for this would be such a terrible thing on so many different levels.
We remember your promise, Lord that ‘when the enemy comes in like a flood, You will raise up a banner.’ Right now, Father we pray for that banner to be effective, and for surprising things to happen, unexpected developments hold back the sword of destruction that is over the nation.
Have mercy on the people of Ukraine.
Once Putin’s mask was off, the West has taken an unexpectedly united stand
In contrast to the lacklustre response when Crimea was taken over in 2014, let alone in the dishevelled withdrawal from Afghanistan a short few months ago, which may well have emboldened Putin to suppose that he could do as he liked now without fear of any consequences, Western nations have shown unexpected resolve in standing up to Putin’s aggression, rightly proceeding on the basis of believing the evidence of their eyes rather than their ears when Putin declared a dozen times a day that he had no intention of invading Ukraine.
Such a perspective helps people who are not normally interested in wider matters to recognise that geopolitics really does matter. The landscape of Europe is unrecognisable now from just a week ago. Who would have thought that Germany, deeply embroiled with Russian economic interests and large pacifist in outlook, would have risen to the occasion by taking costly action to oppose Putin, even to the point of threatening their own economy by postponing NordStream2? Or that Switzerland would be prepared to abandon its long-favoured neutrality to freezee the Swiss numbered accounts of certain prominent Russian leaders?
I suspect that Putin miscalculated in this respect, and Russian people are already being seriously hurt by these sweeping sanctions – but Putin tramples on meekness and only recognises force. It has been hard these past few years not to wonder if this is the 1930s all over again; but the head of the German Army has now apologised for being foolish in not recognising where things were heading – to the point where one of his battalions went on deployment with a painted broomstick because they did not have a gun. Germany has committed now to up its military spending in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Thank God for the courageous reporters who have done an outstanding job in a live war zone in keeping us informed. Let’s be sure to include them in our prayers: both for their safety and for their ability to gather and bring us reports that fuel our prayer.
Thank You, Lord, that the unity of NATO has held together well, despite each country having its own particular take on things not to mention its own economic self-interests. Give resolve and clarity of purpose to all political, financial and military planners and leaders, who are involved at every level, including those who are seeking to resupply the Ukrainian armed forces.
The enemy may be the prince of this world at present, but he is a liar and the one who deceives the nations. (Rev. 20:7-8) He laughs and scoffs at man’s foolishness, but Jesus will have the victory! We battle in prayer, but the Victory is Yours! Father, we pray for justice and mercy, for You to rule and reign. Amen.
We pray Lord that You will find ways to keep casualties to a minimum in the midst of this blazing furnace. We that You would be so very present in Ukraine, in the midst of this conflict – and in the midst of how Russia responds now that it finds itself an international pariah in the coming days. Have mercy Lord and intervene with your wisdom and justice.
Pray for President Zelensky . . . and for Ukrainian refugees
The Ukrainian President has been doing far better as a national leader in time of crisis than anyone expected. He has recently sent a brilliant message to all Russian people in Russian, refuting Moscow’s endless propaganda. For those who use Facebook (I don’t myself) this picture of President Zelensky and his family will help us remember him. We loved his deeply humble insistence not to over elevate him when elected president!
Praise God for the many, many people in Ukrainian areas not yet cut off, who are giving themselves to making supplies of all kinds available to front-line troops – and for multitudes of volunteers overseas, including Britain, sending supplies to Poland. (See for instance – How can Britons help Ukrainians
Finland has been directly threatened by Russia with invasion if it were to join NATO (as Sweden has also been). But Finland, in common with many other nations, has chosen to send missiles and ammunition to Ukraine. May they have the means to get them into the right people’s hands of those who can use them – a challenging logistical exercise now, whereas this could have been freely done just a week ago.
For your information and prayers – SAS veterans are amongst those getting involved now.
“If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the . . . Moldavians, Romanians, the Slovakians and the Polish peoples.” (Exod. 22:22-23)
Bless the people in Moldavia and Romania who have been so generous in providing food, and other specific help to believers coming through into their country. Prosper the work and care of the border network churches, and help them, we pray, and be with the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of women and children who have taken refuge in Poland, Moldavia, Romania and Slovakia, having been so suddenly snatched from their beds and homes, and separated from their menfolk. There will soon be over a million refugees – and in addition to everything else, they are having to deal with the extreme cold. Thank You, Lord, that these countries have been willing to open their doors to so many, and are doing their utmost to help them. We pray that you will be Lord of how this works out for each person and family represented, in the short medium and long term.
Pray for Ukraine’s defence forces
Ukrainian defences withstood the initial onslaught far better than anyone predicted. We would have expected Russia to have achieved instant control of Ukrainian airspace, but that seems not to be the case. Rather, Ukraine has destroyed a substantial number of Russian aircraft, helicopters, tanks, tankers and armoured vehicles. For deliverances thus far we praise God – but we recognise that the dangers increase exponentially from now on as the fighting moves into towns and cities across the land.
Especially as Russia has really nasty weapons in its arsenal. Apart from nuclear weapons, the worst of them all is the vacuum bomb launcher, also known as a thermobaric bomb, or the ‘Father of all non-atomic bombs.’ Russia did not scruple to use these terrible weapons in Syria – and the suffering they inflict is beyond description. Pray for these weapons not to be used.
The speed at which the nation has been mobilising is truly astonishing, fuelled by a deep angered at what Russian forces have done, and by their very presence in Ukraine. Pray for all regular and volunteer warriors.
Thank you, Lord God, that You have given strength and skill to Ukrainian Armed Forces so that they have confounded all expectations and fared so much better than anybody dared to hope, thwarting Putin’s initial attempts at a blitzkrieg.
We pray for multitudes taking up arms for the first time in their lives, and facing a real-life army. Lord, have mercy. Protect them from Russian saboteurs infiltrating them in Ukrainian uniforms., Keep them from accidents in handling unfamiliar and lethal weapons. Intervene again and again and again by Your power we pray.
One prominent minister has posted a message on Facebook that Russians are taking Ukrainian children and putting them on busses spread throughout their convoys which leaves Ukrainians with a choice – bomb the convoy with children it, or leave the convoy and risk them getting to Kyiv. If this post is true, we must pray for the safety of the children – which we can do whether or not that particular message is right, but also for Kiev.
Father, You catch the cunning in their craftiness. Be at work in restraining the fierce fury in Putin’s heart in his fanatical bid to regain control of Ukraine. We ask that You will personally take control and oversee all that happens in every theatre of warfare. Send an angelic ring of protection, and guard the people and places of Ukraine. Be their defence on the right and the left, so that they are not burned either by day or night. Keep them from decimation. Give them each day their daily bread and water. Deliver them from evil. Restrain those who are deploying, and threatening to deploy, all manner of weapons against them. May hands that are about to press launch buttons be held back. May eyes be blinded and minds confused. Lord, break the bow and shatter the spear.
Kyiv in extreme danger
As I write, the Russian Defence ministry has just announced that it is about to take the attack on Kyiv to a significantly higher level, and has warned everyone working in infrastructure (presumably electric power stations) or large buildings to move out. As somebody wrote, ‘One of the most ancient and beautiful cities in the world, the spiritual capital of Eastern Europe – the city of Kyiv is at extreme risk. Everyone who can hold a weapon has risen to defend the capital, including students, school children and even the retired.
Putin has, again and again, shown himself to be totally unconcerned for human life, and this, as the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States has warned, “will probably call for martyrdom.”
Father, let legions of your angels be released to defend the poor, the weak and the powerless. Lord protect Your churches, and let them be a supernaturally safe place for people to find shelter, provision and friendship.
Jesus, may this country not descend into bleak darkness but rather continue to bear witness to the saving power of Christ. Come now by the power of Your Spirit to keep and protect Your people. Keep bloodshed and casualties as low as possible, we pray.
Pray for the work of God’s people in Ukraine
As you know I am a great believer in praying for individuals as representative of millions. We can take the images that we have seen on television of specific people and places and make them the focus of our prayers as representative of millions. Starting local and going wider in other words. Here are two stories that we can use in just such ways.
Tim and Rhoda Sloan have been ministering in Ukraine for very many years, and we post this on their behalf to encourage us to remember them in prayer – and for multitudes of others who find themselves similarly caught up in this war they did not seek.
Tim and Rhoda have just opened a lovely new orphanage with facilities for special needs children. It has taken them 5 years to build. They go out with food daily for the street children. Every week over 400 children attend their Sunday school. Pray that this new orphanage will be preserved from attack. This was what they wrote:
‘This is quite possibly our last means of correspondence for some time. War is imminent and the consequences dreadful. A state of emergency has been declared and this will be followed by martial law. Young Ukrainian men from 16 years of age are being called up to serve in the military and Ukrainians are being given the right to carry arms. A major cyberattack is happening just now as we write which has affected Ukrainian banks as well as government websites. Ukrainian citizens are being asked to urgently leave Russia and our local currency is in free fall. Rhoda and I are not leaving – how can we? As an elder in the assembly my responsibility is to shepherd at all times. It would be a terrible testimony to get up and leave the Lutsk believers.
We have been preparing for this day. Rhoda and I have bought in generators, fuel, food etc as we would like to turn the Gospel Hall into a place of shelter to accommodate and feed the assembly believers who will face many a hardship. God is about to give us a great opportunity to show our Christian faith practically and reach out into our community with the Gospel.
Rhoda and I may have to move out of our apartment as we are close to the Lutsk military airfield and on the 14th floor of our apartment block, we have the central headquarters of the SBO – the Ukrainian secret police.
As we close the military jets can be heard overhead and we covet your prayers! We are not any braver than you – but confident that we are where God would expect us to be. ‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’ (Daniel 4:17)
Six large bombs went off this morning in Lutsk just as I was going to the Gospel Hall at 06.50. I rushed back to the apartment and got Rhoda. We are safe and will open the Gospel Hall for all who need us. We are safe. Please pray. People have started to panic but God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Many are responding to the Lord
‘As people grapple with unknown, many are experiencing the Bible’s message for the first time ever. According to Anatoliy, priests and pastors over the past weeks have been flocking to the Bible Society store in Kyiv to buy Bibles. Demand is so high that they’ve run out of copies. This, Anatoliy says, is one of their biggest challenges: “We need more Bibles.”’
Saviour God, raise a harvest for Your name and for Your glory even through this dreadful crisis and carnage we pray. In Jesus name, Amen.
Pete Grieg has a prayer for Ukraine on the excellent 24-7 prayer website.
This is so relevant for the situation in Ukraine – not least with the reference to ‘my brother’ – for in truth this is in civil war territory, albeit with only one party being the aggressor.
Understanding Vladimir Putin
Information on Putin himself is hard to obtain; the Telegraph has contributed a helpful article on the subject.
It provides significant insight into his mentality – namely, that he is a real ‘street fighter’ and that rather than risk being cornered, he will always strike first. He loved his job as a lieutenant colonel in the KGB, and enjoyed all the duplicity that came with the role.
Through reflecting on a word that Linda brought about Belshazzar, and specifically the phrase ‘you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.’ (Dan. 5:27, but do read from verses 25-27) one friend came up with some points for prayer, which have been greatly appreciated by others:
It brought to mind the image of scales, and how scales can tip at any key moment from one side to the other . . . rather as one of the airports outside Kyiv initially exchanged hands several times.
I have been praying on the lines that the current events, whatever their outcome, will tip the scales against Vladimir Putin in a number of ways:
– that nations formerly friendly to him will be tipped over to see things in a very different light, and even towards resistance;
– that the Russian military will tip over towards loss of confidence in him and to a loss of respect for him;
– that the Russian public will be tipped towards a desire to see him brought down; and will begin to see through the complete fabrications being set before their eyes day after day on television. (This is enlightening in this respect).
-for the Russian Orthodox Church to move from servile support for him to active opposition.
These are mega shifts to pray for, but we serve a mighty God.
Understanding why Ukraine matters so much to President Putin
Relatively few of us will have made an in-depth study of Ukraine before, a country that has suffered so much during its long history. This article will go a long way to filling in the gaps, as will the following link to an essay concerning why Putin is so passionately committed to regaining Kyiv and Ukraine.
If you haven’t the time to devote to reading these essays now, please do remember that they are here, and come back as and when you can.
Should we take Putin seriously when he speaks of nuclear weapons bombs?
To put that question another way – is Putin mad or simply angry? Many, even those who have previously allied themselves with Vladimir Putin, are suggesting that his actions call into question his mental fitness.
This article in the Times, however, argues that Putin isn’t mad but simply angry, and desperate to regain popularity by means of conflict against those who have soiled his love of Soviet ideals and prominence. With six thousand nuclear warheads backing him up, things could go desperately wrong, and the nations indeed go right over the cliff edge, as Justin warned in Malvern Mashal 426.
The Kremlin has accused the British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss of making ‘unacceptable’ statements and have blamed her for giving them no option but to threaten the nuclear option. She had certainly spoken about a Russia beyond Putin, and said that she would not oppose people from joining a sort of Foreign Legion to enable people to go out and fight for Ukraine – comments that Ben Wallace wisely distanced himself from, and which had certainly riled Putin’s extreme sensitivities.
In reality, Putin’s reference to the nuclear option is not so much a response to anything that Liz Truss or her European counterparts actually said, so much as to the fact that his finances are now directly threatened by the swingeing sanctions. Moreover, it is actually part of Russian military doctrine to permit the use of tactical nuclear weapons to ‘de-escalate’ a situation that they are struggling to win by conventional means.
Putin could not possibly use nuclear weapons in a country bordering his own, where over 100,000 of his own troops are involved, and we can be sure that not all of his military leaders will have been happy with the decision. There are already problems enough from increased radiation levels in Chernobyl, caused by heavy military vehicles stirring up contaminated soil in the zone surrounding the former nuclear plant. We mustn’t underestimate the potential danger from this either. May the Lord protect all 20 of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.
There is a dangerous game of chess – or poker – being played out here. The prospect of Russia using its massive nuclear armoury (it possesses so many in both the short, medium and long-distance categories) has sent huge shock waves around the world. one wonders if it is not part of a calculated strategy that offers ‘talks’ whilst all the time continuing to inflict maximum damage.
Russia thoroughly deserved to be expelled from the G8 group when it was, but I had a strong sense then that there would be serious consequences in terms of his desire to revenge himself on those who had rejected him. This has indeed been happening ever since on multiple fronts.
It is tempting to think Putin must be exaggerating. But people who are closest to Putin warn that he is man who never backs down, and who means what he says – except when is telling bare faced lies. As a high-ranking diplomat who knows him very well put it, Putin does not change his aims, only his means.
With an already deeply established pattern of deceptiveness and violence, events over the last two years have led to him becoming increasingly in embittered, so that he is now boiling over. An incredibly dangerous proliferation of violence is a very likely consequence – especially as there are many reports emerging suggesting that he may actually be seriously ill. There are some apparent external signs, but this can only be a matter of speculation at this stage. This would explain his departure from his usual more cautious step-by-step approach in favour of this huge roll of the dice in the form of a full-blown invasion while he can.
Should we be praying for a ‘Palace Coup,’ and that somebody (or some group of some leaders) with cooler heads might take the reins of leadership from him? By definition, Putin will not always be the leader of Russia, so it can only be right to pray for the one who will be.
May the Lord raise up Daniels for this season – and even send specific dreams to Vladimir Putin, perhaps along the lines that he did to Nebuchadnezzar. May He send His angel armies and bring this crisis back into safer waters – unless, indeed, it be a major part of the ‘birth pangs’ that precede Christ’s ultimate return. (see Matthew 24)
One leader after another has made the mistake of judging Putin by their own standards, for lack of the advanced psychological training and insight to know how to relate to someone as complex as Putin. His desire to make Russia great again, is both a huge ego trip and a passionate inner conviction. In Putin’s view, weakness, fallibility and humanity lead to defeat. His creed is, “Strong president, strong Russia.” He is fuelled by the knowledge that Russia enjoys a considerable military advantage over the West at this time, and has enjoyed the eyes of the whole world being on him.
‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,’ the Lord thunders in Isaiah 5: – and the sheer breadth and brazenness of Putin’s deception takes getting one’s head around – until one learns to read things as it were back to front and upside down. Only then can we make sense of his repeated promises that he had no intention of invading etc etc. It is hard not to be reminded of the strutting pride of Goliath, who equally saw himself as invincible. May the Lord restrain the demonic forces at work. May wiser counsel prevail where personal resentments are setting the agenda.
Pray for ‘craftsmen’ who can restrain and ‘de-claw’ the Bear
The West has been so blind when it comes to recognising the threat of Russia’s massive modernisation of its weapons. Now ‘the Bear’ has woken from its deep hibernation and is ‘ravenously hungry’, as one commentator put it. But, as we have all witnessed, the Bear has by no means had things all its own way in this conflict, as this Twitter thread about a meeting between Putin and his oligarchs makes clear. (You don’t have to use Twitter to be able to access it.)
Pray for many of the oligarchs to turn away from the madness of this rush to violence and to take a principled stand.
As in situations of domestic abuse, we knew that the moment of maximum danger would come when Putin found that he was not making the progress he expected to. Ordinary Russian people are already beginning to feel the bite of sanctions which seemed unthinkable even just a few days ago. Do pray for them.
While bears do not possess horns, I have nevertheless been reminded of Zechariah 1:20-21. The Lord showed the prophet ‘four craftsmen. “What are these coming to do?” I asked.
And He replied, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise his head; but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations that have lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”’ (Zech. 1:20-21)
How we need ‘craftsmen’ (some versions refer to them as ‘smiths’) who have the ability to ‘dehorn’ the extreme danger the world, and Ukraine in particular, faces at this time. It seems strange to be brandishing untried weapon of sanctions in the face of physical might, but let’s pray that they will achieve what they are intended to achieve.
Father we pray for your smiths now to limit the damage and mayhem the Bear would otherwise cause. For this particular wounded Bear still has many means for lashing out MOST dangerously.
Forgive us in the West for our arrogance and the complacency we showed in the aftermath of the downfall of the Soviet Union, for our lack of wisdom and sensitivity in relating to former Soviet countries in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. At that time, You warned many of us that there would be a corridor of freedom, but that the door would close again. We are asking You now to be merciful in not allowing it to slam shut.
The role of Sanctions
Sanctions are a weapon that can work both ways. To be sure we can cut off the supply of semiconductor chips and other crucial components, but Putin and Russia are the source of much that Western technology relies on. For a start, Russia is the world’s biggest producer of titanium which is an essential material when it comes to aircraft, as well as US military equipment, including jets, rockets, missiles and submarines.
The West has been determined to prevent Russia accessing its $638,000,000 stashed away in reserves, which would otherwise help it to weather sanctions. It has taken severe actions, therefore, accordingly. 70%o of banks have been withdrawn from SWIFT transactions – which does leave one to wonder about the remaining 30%. Crypto currencies have also been sanctioned, to try to avoid them being used a way to circumnavigate their way around the sanctions.
A moving Letter from Russia and call to pray for the Russian people
When Putin addressed the nation to declare his ‘special operations’ (taking care never to mention the words ‘war’ or ‘invasion’), he said only that he was launching these in the Donetsk region. He is a master of propaganda and misleading claims. However, he maybe reckons without the power of social media. While the Kremlin is fiercely promoting an official narrative suggesting that that Nazi-style Ukrainians have been committing genocide against Russians in Donbas, or that Ukrainians are welcoming the Russian forces and putting up no resistance, the Russian people – and even Putin supporters – are questioning its reality.
Many Russians do not want this war. A friend sent us this touching letter from a Shetland journalist who is spending 6-months in Russia. She testifies to there being no appetite for war against those whom most ordinary Russians describe as their ‘brothers’ in Ukraine.
How precious it is to the Lord when brothers dwell together in harmony – and how terrible when discord and disharmony prevail. This is a war that so few want. It is brother against brother, rather as in 1914 many British and German people regarded each other as something akin to cousins. And yet that was not enough to prevent the carnage. Some Russians have dared to take to the streets since the invasion, protesting against it; many, many of them have been arrested and we can be quite certain they will not be kindly treated.
Lord have mercy. Be Lord of how this plays out in Russian public opinion. We pray that many may have their eyes opened and escape the deep cloying mud of constant false information and propaganda. Be especially with those who are suffering for having dared to make their concerns heard.
At the same time, ordinary Russian people are going to suffer enormously as a result of the sweeping new sanctions. Interest rates were raised drastically from 9.5% to 20% on the 28th February; one can only imagine what that will mean for all who have loans and mortgages.
You may have seen the amusing episode in which a Ukrainian passer-by came across Russian soldiers whose vehicle had run out of fuel, and offered to tow them back to Russia! A friend told me about a group of Russian soldiers surrendering because they had not realised they were being sent into a war zone, having understood they were on exercise. It seems as though this has been repeated on numerous occasions. Such things would seem to indicate very low morale and ineptitude amongst some of the Russian forces. Nothing lowers morale amongst troops more than not knowing where they are or what they are expected to do. Ask the Lord to somehow make Himself known amongst the Russian military forces.
A Panorama of the nations
Pray for the alignment of nations and all that comes from this at this time when events could very easily spin massively out of control.
It seems astonishing that Ukraine did not really believe until a few days ago that Putin was seriously going to launch a full-blown invasion. It had grown too used to having large forces posted on its borders. But the lessons of history are there for all to see just how deadly and how bloody Putin’s attacks have been in the recent past in Georgia, Chechnya and Syria.
Ukraine finally woke up when Putin delivered his speech, dissing, denying and dismissing Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign nation. In many cases, people woke up to the news of the invasion – and were heading for the borders that same day.
And while many in Russia are feeling deeply ashamed and angry at their president for attacking Ukraine – repentant even – have we not got still more to repent of? We urged Ukraine to look to Europe, not Russia, but then failed to give them the assurances that they were seeking.
Father our sins are great. Forgive us that we played kingmaker and lords of the manor when the Berlin wall fell, and instead of adopting a servant role to former Russian Nations, we played lords of the manor – and made Ukraine deeply resentful in consequence.
We have certainly been helping them in terms of cyber defence, but they are understandably resentful that we have not provided them with more anti-aircraft batteries and missiles before the event, which was when they needed them most.
Pray for British American relationships at this time when the US is increasingly focusing on China and the Pacific region rather than on Europe. Biden is almost certainly the last President who will have grown up under the shadow of the Iron Curtain, and to understand these realities, at least in part, from a European perspective.
In no small measure, it has been Putin’s hostility and action that has kickstarted NATO’s sense of urgency and cohesion. But let’s be sure to pray, then, for Joe Biden, who is in great need of both wisdom and stamina to cope with these many-faceted challenges, the most testing indeed of his already much beleaguered Presidency.
Poland has been pursuing highly undemocratic judicial reforms – so much so that there is serious talk about whether it can remain within the EU. But Poland is the nation most directly affected by the new migrant crisis: well over a million Ukrainians already live in Poland, and it is thought that the influx of another million would actually strongly benefit the Polish economy in the long term.
Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orban, has long enjoyed an especially close relationship with Putin, which he will be concerned to preserve, especially with regard to safeguarding his country’s gas supplies.
Neither Poland nor Hungary, however, has broken ranks with the West’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic has been decidedly pro-Putin too, but even he has found these events too much, and declared Putin a despotic leader.
Pro-Russian Serbia, which is currently lobbying hard to be allowed to join the EU, has refused to condemn the invasion so far. Which, one would have thought, hardly makes it a safe candidate to be admitted into EU membership! The point is, we should not underestimate the influence that Russia has been having on the Balkans.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, but it has shown itself incredibly generous to the thousands of refugees now pouring into its small land. It faces its own threats, having a pro-Russian enclave within it, Transnistria, which I have written about elsewhere, and which is also on Putin’s radar: an extreme flashpoint for take-over by Putin’s ‘Imperial’ Russia ambitions. Please join in this anointed three-minute-long prayer cast for Moldova.
See Praying for Moldova as the state of emergency takes effect (October 2021) and The Moldovan Corridor (Spring 2014)
Germany and Italy, are both compromised by their links to Russia and were initially reluctant to actively pursue high-stakes sanctions. Both, however, have moved astonishingly far in a very short space of time.
The Russian-Indian pact is very strong and active, but even Modi has found this too much to stomach, and has called on Putin to withdraw. Israel is close to Putin too – but also to the United States.
The French and British, as well as the Germans, have promised more weapons, with both the EU and America donating staggering sums to re-equip Ukrainian forces and to maintain the nation. Pray that these utterly needed arms and ammunition reach the right people in time. How right Zelensky is in saying that Ukraine is effectively fighting this war on behalf all of the free world. The European Parliament gave Zelensky a standing ovation yesterday, but in reality he fights alone. As an aside, that is not really an aside at all, this crisis has in many ways come at a good time for Boris Johnson. Partygate and its deplorable ways suddenly looks a lot less weighty in the light of all this.
Pray concerning wider threats: Scandinavia and Taiwan
Scientists based in Malvern were crucially involved in the development of radar, which made such a massive difference to Allied efforts in WW2. Just as radar brings into view things that would otherwise be out of sight, I believe the Lord has brought us here to scan the skies and warn of what may lie over the horizon.
Reactive prayer is very much better than nothing but proactive ‘over the horizon’ prayer is the best of all. To that end, it is worth noting that Putin has simulated and rehearsed simultaneous attacks on Denmark and Sweden that would give him complete control over access to the Baltic Sea, and preventing NATO countries from using it.
He has also directly threatened military action against Finland and Sweden should they be moved to follow through on their present considerations of whether to join NATO. We will be looking at this in detail on a subsequent occasion, but you can find references to this threat by searching online, as here, for instance.
Even this is not the limit of Putin’s ‘imperial’ ambitions, as we will be sharing in a subsequent edition. And we must also be alert to what one writer has called ‘the flick of the dragon’s tail’ – that is, China’s repeated threat to invade Taiwan. Experts consider it will be a few more years before China is quite ready to launch such an invasion – but dare not place our confidence in such predictions. This too must be a matter of prayer, because nations bent on aggression often take advantage of those moments when the eyes of the world are focused on Ukraine.
Pray concerning cyber attacks
As we mentioned before, about 288,000 cyber-attacks took place in the first 10 months of 2021, according to official figures, with 397,000 in 2020. Read more about how western hackers are fighting back here:
Anonymous: #Anonymous is continuing its operations against the Russian Federation. Our operations are targeting the Russian government and those close to the Russian government – We are at War! We are united with #Ukraine Mr Putin! You have been warned – Expect MORE!
We call all hackers and digital activists to be united as one. If this war is not won with weapons, it will be won with cyberweapons. Democracy and freedom will destroy fascism and imperialism. #Anonymous #OpRussia #Ukraine #Russia
“I know very little about these things, but my son who has a better understanding has been explaining to me that anonymous are the largest known group of hackers in the world and they have decided to get involved and support the Ukraine and take on Putin. These were their tweets in the recent hours. Modern day warfare may take in many and different ways.”
I understand this group had succeeded in taking down the official Russian government website. There is a deep irony in this. Computer viruses from Russia, particularly the Snake, have paralysed Lithuania and Ukraine in the past – but Russia is not itself inviolable.
These attacks have also been directed at critical infrastructure. In winter 2015, suspected Russian hackers took out parts of Ukraine’s power grid, which led to almost a quarter of a million Ukrainians losing power and heat. A repeat attack happened in 2016. And in 2017, suspected Russian hackers unleashed the NotPetya virus against banks, newspapers and leading companies, causing widespread mayhem.
A new form of politics – and the Lord who loves to turn up!
We pointed people in the last edition to Roger Mitchell’s new publication Kenarchy. Along similar lines, Martin Scott wrote some years ago,
“If we bow at the foot of nationalism as our identity, or in signing up to make our nation great again, then I do not think we have considered at any depth the new identity that we have in Christ. I would love to see a new style of politics arise, not a putting down of the ‘opposition’ but a journeying together for the common good. A new media that does not shut down the minority voices but speaks from and for the margins. So still with hope for Europe, still looking to the first century seed in the ground to spring up. If it does, we know that there is healing for the nations.”
We absolutely can’t neglect the fact that the Lord is the Lord who loves to turn up. See for instance this remarkable story of the conversion of a Taliban prisoner. We can be quite sure that He will be appearing and be at work converting and comforting and guiding countless of His children in Ukraine at this time. May He do so in all the countries most directly affected, including Russia itself.
Symphony of Prayer and Worship: Resources to help us pray
Lament and Light
I wrote this piece for clarinet cello and piano as a way of drawing us into the journey towards the light of Christ, that so often leads us through valleys of tears and lament.
I incorporated a Swedish folk song in the second movement. It seems particularly relevant, in the light of Putin’s threats to invade Finland and Sweden if they join NATO.
Lament and Light
Kyrie Eleison – Lord, have mercy – and the Blessing in Ukrainian
As those called to partner with Jesus in serving as God’s priests to the world, we have the privilege of lifting the world to Him, and of ‘putting His Name’ on those He calls us to. (Num. 6:27)
So as we conclude this, perhaps the weightiest Mashal we have ever sent out, with two precious pieces to help us in this priestly ministry. The first, which Lyndall has sent us as a helpful way of praying, is a brief but powerful 15th century Ukrainian Orthodox version of ‘Kyrie Eleison’ – Lord, have mercy, sung by a choir from Kyiv.
And then, what better way to round off than to join in singing the blessing over Ukraine:
May the Lord hold, keep, bless and lead us all, whether here in the UK, in Ukraine or wherever you happen to find yourself.