Do our prayers to end war do any good?
This past week, we’ve heard the news that Russia has invaded Ukraine. Tensions had been mounting for quite some time. But diplomatic efforts were not effective in stopping the onslaught of war. People all over the world are offering prayers to end war.
I believe these prayers will help resolve the problem.
If you’re reading this (or listening to this podcast) the day it’s published, I realize things are developing quickly in Ukraine and I may not have the latest information since I wrote this several days ago.
If you’re reading this at a later time, some of the ideas I share may or may not still seem relevant, but my goal here is to offer some encouragement and ideas on how our prayers to end war can be effective.
Prayers to end wars…
Today we’re going to talk about how to pray in times of war and whether or not our prayers really make any difference on the stage world of events.
I’m not going to discuss this from a political or policy perspective. That is not my strong suit. And frankly, the only real solution to this war, or any war, has to start with God. Governmental policy or procedure, in and of itself will never bring a lasting solution.
The only “policy,” if you want to call it that, which I recommend is the Sermon on the Mount. If everyone involved in this current conflict were actually putting into practice what Jesus reveals in this Sermon of sermons, this war would not be taking place. Plain and simple.
War comes, on a small scale between two or more individuals or groups, within an organization, a church, a country, and on the largest scale, between nations. But the root of war is the same, on however minuscule or grand a scale it appears. War comes from a heart or hearts which have not yielded completely to Christ.
I have been deeply touched by the heartfelt prayers, which I have seen in social media in the last week or so, for a resolution to the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
I’ve been reminded that we need to pray, not just for Ukraine and it’s people and leaders, and for the countries and leaders supporting Ukraine, but also for Russia, its leaders, and people.
Pray for those in authority
The Bible encourages us to do this.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:1-5 NIV
This does not mean I’m praying for them to be successful in the way they or I think things should be resolved.
I pray for them to hear the voice of God, repent from mistakes they have made, and do what is right in the eyes of God.
And Paul reminds us in verse 5 that Christ Jesus is the one true mediator between God and mankind.
When it comes to countries at war, we usually think of mediating between the countries. But 1 Timothy points out that the true mediation is between God and mankind and is carried out by Christ Jesus.
Jesus is the mediator
And what did Jesus have to say on this topic? How would he mediate with those involved in the war?
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:44 NIV
That’s a tall order, isn’t it!
But the prayer of loving your enemies, and I mean really loving them with the agape love of God, is a powerful prayer that can and does make a huge difference in the world.
And it can change people’s hearts.
Can you love everyone involved in this war, or any war situation, with the agape love of God?
It doesn’t mean you love what they’re doing. It means you see way beyond what they’re doing, right or wrong in your estimation of things, and love them purely as children of God.
War in the Bible
There are so many examples in the Bible when people are at war with other countries.
Let’s look at a few of them and see what we can learn from these stories about praying more effectively to end war.
My question for you is: Can prayer stop an army?
The Bible gives several examples of this very thing.
When Moses and the Children of Israel were at the edge of the Red Sea and the Egyptian chariots were pursuing them, for all practical appearances, they were defenseless against the military might of Egypt.
God had brought the Children of Israel to this place and would not desert them. But the people were terrified and began wishing they had never left Egypt.
Prayer of affirmation
Then Moses offers a powerful prayer of affirmation, assuring the Children of Israel that God will defend them.
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13, 14 NKJV
What can we learn from this situation about how to pray during war?
The first thing that comes to me is that the people knew they had no way to defend themselves. They really had no other choice but to depend on God, even if they were still afraid.
Moses told them they didn’t need to fight. God would fight for them. They only had to be still.
Well, that goes against human nature, doesn’t it? When there’s a problem, big or small, we think we have to get in there and DO something. God’s message in this case, is to be still and let God do what needs to be done.
How you can you pray with this idea about the situation in Ukraine right now? Or any war-type situation now or whenever you’re reading this?
Can you be still and see God at work? Does that mean you never do anything to defend yourself?
Here’s the thing. There’s no formula. It’s all about listening for God’s guidance in each situation. And doing what God tells you.
Prayers to end war are effective
Another example in the Bible, when a military attack on the Children of Israel is averted, is recorded in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. You might enjoy reading that whole chapter to see all the detail in the story. Some of the key points are included in the Bible references below.
A huge army was coming to Jerusalem. When King Jehoshaphat found out, he prayed and asked all Judah to pray and fast. Everyone came together, men, women, and children, to pray to God.
Jehoshaphat prayed with all the people standing there, acknowledging God’s sovereignty among the nations and praising His glory.
Suddenly the Spirit of God comes upon Jahaziel, who prophesies that God will fight the battle for them.
The next morning, the people go out to meet the invading armies, but not with weapons. The King encourages them to have faith and he commands them to sing praises to God. They weren’t sharpening their swords, they weren’t preparing for battle. They were singing and praising God. These were their spiritual weapons.
As they began to sing, the Lord set ambushes among the enemy armies and they were defeated.
What ideas can we take from this?
- First, Jehoshaphat the king turned to God for help
- Next, he asked everyone in Judah to pray and fast
- Then all the people came together, men, women, and children
- They knew only God could solve the problem
- They sang praises and glorified God as they went to face the enemy
As you pray about the situation in Ukraine, let these ideas guide your prayers. Don’t be afraid and remember, there is power in collective prayer.
Just taken a minute to consider how many people around the world are praying about the situation in Ukraine and Russia. That is powerful. And we may never know how much of a difference our prayers made.
Sing praises to God and remember the prayer of Jehoshaphat, ““LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.”
There are also examples in the Bible when the Children of Israel experienced war, fought battles, sometimes wining, sometimes losing them.
But God was still God. Whatever happens in Ukraine, God is still the God of heaven and earth.
Christ speaks to every man’s heart
Let’s come back to this idea in 1 Timothy 2:5 that the only mediator between God and mankind is Christ Jesus.
In your prayers, can you see that Christ is talking to the heart of every man, woman, and child on the planet?
You don’t have to pray for Christ to do this. It’s what Christ does. But we can pray for the hearts of men to hear the voice of Christ.
I think the best example in the Bible of this happening is when Saul is on the way to Damascus to imprison the believers in Jesus. He has the worst of intentions.
And while you can’t really call it war between one country and another, it really is a war between a materialistic approach to religion and a spiritual one. Saul really thought of himself at war with the followers of Jesus and their teachings.
But something incredible happened to Saul. He was completely transformed.
Christ appears to Saul
He had a vision of Christ talking to him. And it changed him from the inside out. If you’d like to review the story, you can read about it in Acts, Chapter 9.
The point I’d like to bring out here is that those early believers knew what Saul was up to. They knew how he felt about them and their love for Jesus.
I’m reading between the lines here, but I am confident that the believers were earnestly praying to God to protect them from Saul. They may have been thinking about what Jesus had said in the Sermon on the Mount, to love your enemies, to pray for them and bless them.
They were probably afraid to some degree, just as you or I would have been, but I believe we can assume they kept praying until, individually and/or collectively, they had a sense of peace and heard God tell them not to be afraid.
I know, I am imagining this, but I do think it’s highly likely they were praying and asking God to protect them from Saul.
And Saul’s heart was changed in the most radical way.
As you take to heart the counsel in 1 Timothy to pray for kings and all those in authority, pray to see that Christ is talking to every heart and that everyone can hear that voice of Christ and respond the way Saul did.
Ukraine and Russia in prayer
What would happen if the whole nation of Ukraine, gathered in Spirit, sang songs, praised God, and trusted God completely to do what was needed?
What would happen if the leaders of Russia, in the same way, trusted God, and I don’t mean give lip service to or wave the Bible around, prayed to do God’s will and trusted Him to give them everything they needed?
The situation would be very different right now.
You may be thinking, James, this is an optimistic but totally naïve way to think about this.
But I do know that prayer is powerful. And maybe it’s not so much praying for God to do something as it is a prayer to see what God has already done and is always doing.
We’re not trying to change God’s mind about anything. We’re praying, like Jehoshaphat, to acknowledge that God is supreme and in control of all nations.
I love this passage in 2 Corinthians. I have included both the King James translation and the New Living Translation:
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 KJV
We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 NLT
Many kinds of prayers to end war
There are so many ways to pray in the face of war, and Paul, who had that incredible change of heart we just talked about, is encouraging us to use prayer as our weapon, so to speak, to combat the evil forces in the world.
At the time I’m recording this episode, I don’t know what will happen in Ukraine. I don’t know who will hear the voice of Christ speaking to their hearts.
But I do know that our prayers are effective.
Jesus said that we are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)
When your light is shining, it destroys darkness. The more light we shine collectively, the more darkness disappears. You may think your little light will not make much difference, but that is just not true.
Every single light is valuable and effective. Every prayer from your heart is heard by God.
Promise of world peace
There is a promise in the Bible of a time when war will cease and peace be found on the earth.
In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all—the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.
The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD! Isaiah 2:2-5 NLT
From one perspective, we tend to think this is a promise for a time far off in the future.
But from another perspective, it’s a vision of what is already true in the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus said is at hand. We see this to the degree we let our light shine and bear witness to the light of Christ lighting up the whole world, one heart at a time.
Never underestimate the ability of your light to destroy darkness in the world. Never underestimate the power of your prayers for peace.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
1 Timothy 2:1-5 NIV
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—
2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
Matthew 5:44 NIV
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Exodus 14:13, 14 NKJV
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.
14 “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
2 Chronicles 20:2-6, 13-15, 20-22 NIV
2 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea.
3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.
4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard
6 and said: “LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. [There’s a powerful prayer, right there, acknowledging God’s supreme rule in all nations] 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah,
15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.
20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”
21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” [They weren’t sharpening their swords, they weren’t preparing for battle. They were singing and praising God. These were their spiritual weapons] 22 As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 KJV
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 NLT
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
Matthew 5:14 KJV
14 Ye are the light of the world.
Isaiah 2:2-5 NLT
2 In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house
will be the highest of all—
the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
3 People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion;
his word will go out from Jerusalem.
4 The LORD will mediate between nations
and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.
5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!