Praying for the trouble spots of the world

Added about 4 months ago by David Goodacre

Morning Prayer in Urumqi - buy now from Sacristy PressIn his book Morning Prayer in Urumqi, David Goodacre invites those who prepare intercessions for church services to think imaginatively about the people and places we are invited to pray for. But how can we pray for peace at a time when war is never far from our news bulletins?

How are we to pray for Ukraine and Russia? for Gaza and Israel in these troubling times? For peace certainly! Such prayer is in the spirit of the Lord’s Prayer, that God’s will may be done, the kingdom come; peace now as well as at the end of time.

There is a long history behind both the Ukraine/Russia debacle and the Gaza war. It is going to take great wisdom and long diplomatic activity to find solutions. Might it be, as I suggested in Morning Prayer in Urumqi, that we focus our prayer by adding a little more imagination to the issues the countries face; the kind of prayer that alerts us to what the Lord is already doing as well as on issues we can pray about. All the countries in conflict at present are mentioned in the vignettes of the book: Ukraine (No. 21), Russia (No. 44), Gaza, Israel and Jerusalem (Nos. 4 and 25). 

On 2 January, the Anglican calendar remembered the Russian saint Seraphim of Sarov (1753–1833). For much of his pilgrimage, he lived as a hermit in the woods to the East of Moscow. It is said that Dostoevsky, in the Brothers Karamazov, modelled his saintly character Zosima on Seraphim. Seraphim reminds us how important the discipline of prayer is to the Russian people; that many there are praying just as we are for peace. We pray with them, and also with people like Marina Ovsyannikova who held up a plaque on Russian television to warn viewers that they were being told lies. Perhaps this give us a clue; that we should pray for truth, that it might prevail, not only in Russia but in Ukraine―and indeed everywhere.  

We could also pray that the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine might open themselves to wider sources of opinion. In Russia’s case, there are people like Alexei Navalny and his exiled supporters in Vilnius, Lithuania. His colleague there, the investigative journalist Maria Pevchikh, continues their work. Let us pray for them.    

Prayer around the Russia/Ukraine crisis is difficult enough, for the people of the Holy Land it is even harder. We must avoid taking sides, of judging that one side is more righteous than the other. It is a temptation we have to avoid. We should rather pray for those on both sides who are strive for justice and mercy.   

The late Palestinian academic Edward Said who, with the Jewish Daniel Barenboim, founded the East/West Diwan Orchestra, acted as an adviser to the Palestinian leadership. Sadly they rarely heeded what he said. The Palestinians need good leadership as do the Israelis. Let us pray then for wise leadership, a leadership that values each of the peoples equally, and looks for viable solutions to what has been such a long-lasting, intractable problem. 

We are grieved by the suffering in both wars. The Israeli hostages who must be so frightened, the thousands that have been killed and so many more injured in Gaza. The number is so vast, it is hard to comprehend all who suffer. One way of doing this is to remember one or two who can then represent the rest: the infant who lost both her legs, the teenage girl so damaged she may never walk again, the pregnant mother without help giving birth in front of her terrified seven-year-old. We will need to judge carefully what detail we can include in a service; a name and age might be better. Whatever their faith or nationality, each person is loved by God, and we pray for them all.    

All this is happening within a global context. What goes on in the rest of the world affects and is affected by these crises; my book acknowledges this by suggesting we pray for the world, region by region, over a year. Better to pray for situations before they deteriorate into yet another international crisis. We are called to join with our Lord in his prayer to the Father that peace may come now; as well as at the end of time.

Morning Prayer in Urumqi: Preparing petitions when praying for the world by David Goodacre is an invaluable resource for anyone who regularly prepares prayers for public worship, and is available as a paperback and e-book.

Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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