How Should We Pray During Times of War?

With the ever-increasing intensity of the attacks against the people of Ukraine, many Christians are wondering how to pray for this situation as we continue to watch in horror as it unfolds. Is it okay to pray that someone takes out an oppressive tyrannical leader? How do we pray against such a leader while still lifting up the people in his own nation who are also victims of evil tyranny? How do we pray when we don’t know all the ins and outs of each situation, when we know there is likely more to each news story than meets the eye? How do we pray when it seems there is nothing else we can do to help?

The very sad reality of living in a sinful and broken world is that this is not the first time an evil and ruthless leader has used military might for personal power.

Nor will it be the last.

As such, there is much in God’s Word that can help us to pray in such times as these. The Psalms are particularly well-suited here. In fact, as we read and pray the Psalms, praying God’s Word back to God, one might be surprised at how explicit and poignant they are, how accurately they reflect our emotions and give words to the prayers we may not otherwise be able to speak.

For example, Psalm 59 (EHV) begins:

Deliver me from my enemies, my God.
You set me high above those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from evildoers.
Save me from bloodthirsty men.
Yes, look how they lie in ambush to take my life!
Strong men gather against me,
but it is not because I have rebelled,
not because I have sinned, O Lord.
I am not guilty,
yet they run to take up their positions against me.
Rise up to meet me and see!
You, O Lord, God of Armies, the God of Israel,
wake up and confront all the nations. Interlude
Do not show mercy to all the wicked traitors…

Psalm 59 continues with the Psalmist’s plea that God would destroy this enemy that prowls around the city looking to devour everything in its path (this Psalm was likely written by David as Saul was on a tyrannical rampage seeking to destroy David). The Psalmist prays that the world would know the truth, that he and his people would be redeemed, and ultimately that God would be praised. It is definitely okay for us to pray the same.

This is what the Psalms so often do. They help us to pray in such a way that true emotion, regardless of what that emotion is, can be safely expressed before our God, who hears and sees all. The Psalms are real and raw. They don’t hold anything back. They help us to cry out to God, even with demands of justice, when we ourselves are helpless to intercede in any other way than prayer.

In fact, it is precisely when we are not allowed to help in any other way that our prayers seem to become all the more fervent. Of course, fervent prayers should be our first response, not our last. But, in the case of Ukraine, many of God’s children around the world have only one option right now and that is to kneel before our Father and pour our hearts out to Him, asking Him to intercede.

While there are many Psalms that can help us to pray in times such as these, here are a few more to get you started: Psalms 18, 24, 27, 33, 35, 46 (the basis for Martin Luther’s famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God”), 60, 108, 138, and 144. Read these Psalms. Slow down and focus on what is really being expressed. Then use these Psalms to help you create your own prayers, even if doing so simply means reading the Psalms back to God.

In times like these, we can also pray that God’s will, and only God’s will, be done – whatever that may be. For He alone is sovereign. No matter what is happening, God sees it. He feels the pain of his people. He hears the cries of His children. And ultimately those responsible for the suffering of others will deal with Him directly. The Lord’s Prayer is a very helpful prayer foundation for praying God’s will be done.

In the meantime, it is also very appropriate to pray our Advent prayer of “Come, Lord Jesus”. We ask Jesus to come into the hearts of those causing evil, so that they may repent and be turned toward Him. We pray that those who do evil will come to know the Lord and His passionate love for those they have been hurting so that their eyes are opened, the evil would stop, earthly restitution would be made, and salvation would be granted. And we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” so that evil would be stopped forever more. For only upon our holy Christ’s return will peace reign for all God’s children.

Come, Lord Jesus. Hear our prayer.


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