Putin and prayer

putin and prayer

Putin has changed my prayer!

When the Kremlin-initiated military operation began in February, I was looking at several television networks (BBC, Al Jazeera, DW) in horror at what was happening over the following weeks through March and April.

I found myself in tears, shocked and aghast at how people could inflict such devastation on their brothers and sisters with such blatant disregard.

Given the sense of helplessness we probably all feel, I have been watching my prayer during this time, tracing its changes over the period when the media we have access to, no doubt biased in its own way, reveals what are visually horrific and unbridled acts of violence.

My prayer is changing.

In the first few weeks it was something like this:

Lord, couldn’t you organise an assassination for the fellow? Look at what he’s doing to his own people!

It would then change as I contemplated the Lenten and then the Easter gospels with a shift:

Lord, God of might, all powerful and yet all loving, soften his hard heart and comfort those suffering.

More often now, than at the beginning when I could not even let the Word sink into me, it goes something like this:

Jesus, you graciously call me brother; make me aware of my own hardness of heart, my own blatant disregard of others, or my judgment and dismissal of them, and in turn, of my own self. In that awareness, may I become your instrument of peace in all my relationships.

I would like to think that the third prayer is how I pray all the time, but the truth is that I probably alternate from one to the other depending on my mood or whether or not I have lived a particular day more or less aware of the world around me.

Wouldn’t it be great if life were as simple as I wished it to be, or that I’d be a saint sooner than yesterday!

But neither is that the truth. Such a wish belongs to the world of pious fantasy.

Nevertheless, I take heart because the prayers Jesus prayed are simply human and fully so. Psalm 139, a favourite of many, lists the wonders God has done, how faithful and loving is this creator God of ours whose hand is upon us and who is so close, knitting us together as we are being formed, with us to the end (vv. 1-18). But, or better: and then comes the invective against the psalmist’s enemies:

O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies. (NRSV 19-22)

However, there is a shift in the remaining verses when the prayer realigns the thoughts and worldview of the psalmist who prays to be more self-aware, putting trust in the God who knows the heart (vv. 23-24).

This refocus brings about a greater humility and a prayer to be aware of the wicked ways we each of us have within our own hearts.

Such a realignment returns us to our creatureliness; we can no longer judge or dismiss others or think ourselves self-righteous in relation to Putin and his generals, or Hitler, or the present-day leadership of Israel.

In Ps 22, the psalm some scholars attribute to Jesus’ last prayer on the cross, the metaphors change.

The enemies are turned into jackals and roaring lions or the horns of oxen from which a saving God will rescue the psalmist, because of the confidence and trust placed in the relationship the one praying has in the God whose face is not hidden from those who love and are loved by such a covenantal God. It is a psalm full of trust in and praise of our God.

The psalms, it seems to me, give us the freedom to pray as we are: human beings constantly in need of being brought up short, challenged to remember that we are not the creators of our destiny.

If the astrophysicists are right, then every movement we make, every empowering thought, wish or prayer can and does affect the universe, earthing us as human (humus) yet, creatures that we are, also co-creators but only with the God of peace and mercy.

  • Dr Kevin Dobbyn FMS is Coordinator, Te Ahi Kā o Mātauranga – a community of young adults whose main ministry is hosting other young adults, students and young Christian workers and professionals.
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