“War is hell. You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it,” American Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman once wrote.
There is an undeniable hellishness in the experience of war. The gruesome images of the war from Ukraine, the wail of human suffering and the pain of wanton destruction of life have all made the deep sinfulness of man viscerally real.
The Christian is called to act against such injustice and violence. But how can all of us in India respond to this? One thing God calls us to do is pray. As Christians we are to be on our knees interceding for those caught in the middle of war surrounded by death and destruction.
The potency of prayer is greater than the armies of this world with their bullets, tanks and cruise missiles. In prayer, we come into the throne room of the sovereign God—maker of heaven and earth. Here we petition the High King of heaven to act in accordance with his eternal promises and intervene in our sordid human affairs of sin and misery.
In times of war, it is not only the privilege but the duty of the child of God to seek him in prayer.
Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray that God’s perfect will be done on earth. Therefore, we pray his perfect kingdom of love come over and against the flawed kingdoms of man (Matt. 6:10). At our heavenly Father’s throne, there is grace available far beyond our human understanding. In times of war, it is not only the privilege but the duty of the child of God to seek him in prayer.
How then shall we pray? Here are six things to pray for during times of war.
For the Protection of Civilians and the Innocents of War
War is savagery. It shatters millions of lives. It becomes a particularly catastrophic humanitarian crisis when civilians are wilfully targeted, as reported by the United Nations. Civilians do not sign up for war. They are innocents caught in the crossfire and trapped in cities being bombed. Pray God’s protection upon the men, women and children who live in daily mortal danger. Pray that the Lord would show mercy and preserve the innocents from the destruction and death of war.
For the Provisions of Refugees and Those Caught Up in the Fight
With food, water, and medicines in short supply, families have resorted to desperate measures such as eating a stray dog, as reported in The Telegraph. Pray that God would provide for people their daily bread. Pray for the millions of refugees who have been dislocated from their homes and lost all their possessions. Pray that God would provide them with the stability, resources and favour required to begin their lives again.
For the Pain of the Suffering and Bereaved
War carries away men, women and children to the grave en masse. Pray for those grieving the loss of their friends and family. Pray for God’s consolation upon them. Pray for those suffering from injuries and sickness due to the war. Pray for their healing and restoration.
For the Downfall of the Wicked
Unjust wars are the acts of aggressors. Pray that those who violate the sanctity of peace and would unleash violence upon fellow man made in God’s image would be held accountable to the justice of God.
Pray that those who would violate the sanctity of human life and engage in barbaric brutality would be unseated from the power they have abused. It is not unchristian to pray for the downfall of the wicked, as the imprecatory psalms teach us. Rather such prayers are bold confidence in God to dispense his righteous justice in this world.
If war is hell on earth, may we be ministers of heavenly grace in prayer.
Simultaneously, we pray for the deliverance of such wicked people into the saving knowledge of God in Christ Jesus. The Lord commands us to pray for our persecutors (Matt. 5:44). This is the love of Christ. Thus, one way or another, by the downfall of the wicked in divine judgement or their deliverance unto Christ by divine grace, pray the wicked perish from this earth.
For the Prevailing of Peace
Pray for cessation of hostilities and the prevailing of peace. Pray for courage and strength for all who work and fight to ensure peace in the land. Pray for the wisdom of magistrates and ministers who lead these peace-making efforts. Pray for the changing of the hard hearts of aggressors who perpetuate the war. Pray in the name of the Prince of peace that his peace would prevail upon this earth.
For the Promotion of the Gospel
The only true resolution to war bringing forth eternal peace, and healing deep wounds is by the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel alone that offers hope to a world that tears itself apart. Nothing else but the blood of Jesus can bring the healing and peace humanity so desires. There is no peace on earth without Jesus and his atoning work upon the cross.
Therefore, pray for the promotion of the gospel even in the midst of a war. Pray for the salvation of souls and the consolation of hearts by the Spirit of God. Pray for the welfare of the church. Pray the church stands tall in the crisis to be fruitful witnesses of the love of the Saviour in word and deed.
In prayer, Christians are given an opportunity to actively participate in perilous times of war for the cause of truth, justice and peace. If war is hell on earth, may we be ministers of heavenly grace in prayer. May we who live in this pivotal moment in history, confidently intercede for this world in the name of Jesus Christ.