Prayer for Ukraine – for an end to war there, is so needed. Sitting in my comfortable, safe home in Australia, I, like many others around the world, yearn for peace for the people of that country.
In the face of such wanton destruction and forced displacement of people, it’s tempting to feel helpless. What can one person’s prayer for Ukraine do?
Humanitarian Dr. Raphael Lemkin, who was a Polish international lawyer, is a shining example of the power of one. In 1933, disturbed by news of the continuing massacre of Christian Assyrians in the Middle East (as well as the memory of Armenians massacred during World War I), Lemkin began examining those atrocities as crimes, in an effort to prevent and outlaw them. He drafted a resolution and presented it to the Legal Council of the League of Nations. His proposal failed.
In 1939, when Poland was invaded by Germany, he was forced to flee to Sweden. Although a refugee, he continued to analyse the laws and systems put into place in Nazi Germany that allowed for the systematic elimination of people. He presented a draft convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide to the Paris Peace Conference in 1945. Once again his proposal failed.
Refusing to quit, Lemkin continued to campaign without funding, official status, or support from a government or an accredited organization, for the establishment of barbaric acts as a crime under international law. Finally on December 9, 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted unanimously by the 55 member states of the United Nations at its third General Assembly in Paris. As of December 2019, there were 152 signatories.
Raphael Lemkin, who was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, inspires me to remember the value of just one person. It reminds me that I can certainly undertake prayer for Ukraine. Such prayer can help resolve conflict. I once learned this for myself, albeit on a much smaller scale.
At one time, the peace of my neighbourhood was shattered by drunken men screaming and swearing late into the night in a nearby house. For several weeks they kept ten neighbouring families awake. Sleep deprivation made people angry. One furious householder threatened to “knock someone’s block off” if the disturbances didn’t stop. Neighbours met, contacted the police, and considered all available legal avenues. When no solution could be found, I decided it was time for prayer.
Lying in bed one night, I prayed, “Dear Father, You created us to live together in peace. None of Your children can be self-seeking or hurtful. Selfish behaviour is no part of the spiritual nature You have given us. You made us to be considerate of each other. There has to be an answer for this situation. We can resolve this conflict peacefully, and I know that You can help me find a way.” Then I listened for God’s direction.
Finally, this thought came to me: “If you have aught against your brother, go to him and tell him” Bible. Matt. 18:15. My first reaction was, “That can’t be the answer! I’m not going near the men in that house. They might attack me.” But then, two afternoons later, I decided to follow my prayerful intuition. Accompanied by my husband, I went to the house and knocked on the door. A man answered. We told him how upset all his neighbours were at the late-night disturbances. To our great surprise, he immediately apologized. As the owner of the property, he said he would tell his new upstairs-tenants to be quiet. And he did. Peace was established.
Although this incident cannot be compared to barbaric acts of genocide or the devastation of war, it nevertheless encourages me to believe that each heartfelt prayer for Ukraine – for peace and harmony, can, and does, lead to healing resolutions.
“The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” These words attributed to the 18th-century Irish-born philosopher Edmund Burke help pull me back from the brink of scepticism or apathy about praying for my neighbourhood, community, Ukraine, or any other trouble spot.
Prayer for the establishment of peace and humane behaviour in the world, is somewhat like a pebble thrown into a pond. The pebble doesn’t sink straight to the bottom without having an effect. It creates ripples that continue to move outward. In the same way, each time I pray with conviction that the power of good will ultimately triumph over evil – that decency and harmony will prevail, that sanity and compassion will override barbarism – I think of my prayers as sending out ripples that can heal hateful, warring and destructive thinking.
Mary Baker Eddy the discover and founder of Christian Science once wrote: “A dewdrop reflects the sun. Each of Christ’s little ones reflects the infinite One, and therefore is the seer’s declaration true, that ‘one on God’s side is a majority’” (Pulpit and Press, p. 4).
This reminds me of the value and effectiveness of each sincere prayer. God never stops caring for each and every person in the world. Praying for evidence of this fact is never a waste of time. Our prayers for peace and healing will send out beneficial ripples. Each one will be a powerful force for good in the world.