On our knees

When my husband died, very suddenly and unexpectedly, I knew disbelief that the world carried on. That neighbours cut their lawns and people went to work, that I washed my hair, put food on the table, smiled and drove the car without smashing it and myself into a tree, or off a cliff. It was shocking that, while desolation wreaked havoc in my mind and heart, life went on apparently normally. I feel just that way now, with all the terrible pain and fear being visited on Ukraine.

What are we to do? Alongside the practical, the donations, the offer of refuge, the campaigns and the protests… what can we little people, so far away, so irrelevant, do to help? Only pray. And surely, surely, these are the times when we learn how to pray. Not a form of words, or not only a form of words, but urgent longing, wrenching empathy, overwhelming compassion for all the mothers and fathers, children and old people, for the men carrying guns they aren’t used to, for the young teacher I saw today making Molotov cocktails. For the exhausted President, for the doctors and nurses treating the already desperately ill alongside the injured. For the terrified and the weeping. Only pray.

If we cannot pray at a time like this, when will we?

Pray for the Ukraine, for Poland and Latvia and all the countries opening their borders for the refugees.

And pray for Russia and Belarus, those twins of deception and bitterness, those bullies. Pray for the Russian people who know so little about the situation, and pray for their soldiers many of whom are bewildered to discover what these ‘military exercises’ truly are. How appalling it would be, as a young soldier to discover that your orders are to fire upon civilians, to kill your neighbours.

My father, my brothers and me were all in the British armed forces. We went where we were told to go and believed we were on the side of right. What would we have done if we had been called upon to kill the enemy? If we believed him to be the enemy….. with no knowledge, except what our government and officers told us… we were soldiers. Soldiers are not the enemy, soldiers are someone’s son or daughter, someone’s father or mother. The enemy hides behind them, away from the battle. This time the enemy is in the Kremlin.

Pray for the Kremlin.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Those are the words of Jesus. Hard to do, but possible. By His grace.

And pray too that NATO and the rest of the world is wise and strong and brave. And comes to the rescue.

Pious Luce eh? Not quite. Not nearly pious. It is easier to hate than to love at times like this. Easier to fear than to trust. I don’t love Putin and his Generals – but that’s my failing, my lack. So I ask God to help me to pray, even for them. Let’s be honest – forget the churchy words and any appearance of holiness – let’s admit that praying for our enemy, our real enemy, the savage at the gate and the madman in his castle, is hard. Damn near impossible. But not quite impossible. We need God’s grace. He will give it freely if we ask with sincere hearts. That’s how love grows. That’s how war is defeated.

But I’m still praying that NATO finds its backbone, closes the airspace to Russia, blows up the roads ahead of the Russian convoys, protects the people of Ukraine. Come on, Boris, come on Germany, come on the West – do something!

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