Why pray when the Bible tells us there is a time for war, and that there will be wars and rumours of wars?

May 26, 2023 | INSIGHTS, PRAY

Solomon wrote of there being ‘a time for war’ as well as utterly welcome times of peace – but it is hard to understand the fact that wars have been decreed in Scripture. Not surprisingly, it makes some people reluctant to pray at all in the face of war and threats of war. Jesus said, ‘You will hear of wars and rumours of wars . . . Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. These things must happen.’ (Matt. 24:6-7) Yet we can be quite sure that His heart is grieved at what is happening in places such as Ukraine and Sudan, for evil has been unleashed there, as in every place across the world where wars are being fought.

Gregory Boyd has many helpful insights to bring here, in his seminal book, God at War. (IVP) He writes that God Himself has been in an age-long (but not eternal!) battle against satan, and that this conflict is

‘the major dimension of the ultimate canvas within which the biblical narrative, from creation to the eschaton, is to be painted and therefore understood.’

Whereas many modern Christians are either baffled by the existence of evil – or even inclined to deny its personal nature altogether – New Testament believers were fully aware of what was going on, and knew how to wage in true spiritual warfare.

We will share more of Boyd’s insights on a subsequent occasion, but while war on Earth is a reality we cannot escape, it is helpful to realise it is actually an outworking of the warfare that has long been waged in the cosmic realm, pointed to by such passages as Revelation 12. There is no room for fatalism in our walk with God. We will rarely, if ever, know how the Lord will choose to use our prayers, whether He will intervene to prevent a war for example, or how He will make use of some wars to further His purposes. Our renewed heart is instead to beat to the rhythm of Jesus’ prayer, “Your Kingdom come, Father. Your will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.”

When Jesus speaks of ‘rumours of wars,’ it is worth noting that the word ‘rumour’ comes from ‘akouo’ meaning ‘hearing.’ He intends that we train ourselves in our inner hearing, so that we are able to discern what is true and most telling, and what is just speculative or, indeed, entirely erroneous. This is why He urged us to, ‘Take care then how you hear.’ (Matt. 24:6; Heb. 5:14, Luke 8:18) We could also, perhaps, think of it as a reminder to pay attention not to the rumours that abound on every side, but rather to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Our work as intercessors is to keep our ears open to the word and voice of God, so that we might understand the times we are in, and play our full part in them. We are continually wrestling in spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness which are attempting to take people captive. But we do so under the banner of the resurrected Christ, the Lamb and the Lion of Judah. By means of courageous and visionary prayer and action, we have the honour of partnering with Him in establishing and implementing His Kingdom. Amen!

Rees Howells is a good example of someone who understood these things. You will remember how the Lord showed him that His intention was for Nazi Germany to turn away from its relentless attacks on the UK, and instead to make a surprise invasion of its ally, Russia – and He stirred up Rees to intercede for this to come about.

Staff and students alike in the Bible College Rees had founded joined him faithfully in shouldering the burden of prayer, even after German forces had entered Russia. They persevered through the long and grisly months of war, praying in particular for the Lord to do a great miracle to save both Moscow and Stalingrad. (Do read, or reread, the story of those most significant months in Chapter 36 of Norman Grubb’s book, Rees Howells, Intercessor, from page 286 on the pdf.)

Perhaps we can draw parallels here with the plight of Kyiv when Russia launched its full military might against it in February 2022. How could the city possibly withstand such overwhelming odds? Bakhmut too managed to hold out for many months against vastly superior Russian forces, and against all the predictions of the experts. We can be sure that God has been answering the prayers of many.

‘I urge you,’ wrote Paul,

‘that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone – for kings and all those in authority – so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

God doesn’t want anyone to perish, (2 Pet. 3:9) yet we know full well that countless people ignore and turn their backs on Jesus’ offer of salvation. When we pray, we are aligning ourselves with His own work – which is far from easy – drawing people to Himself while there is yet time, knowing that our real battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities and powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 6:12)
See also this post from CRU on the whole topic of why we pray.

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