Several friends posted a poignant picture of Ukrainian Christians, kneeling in the snow to pray together. I reposted the picture with the phrase, “I hope this picture is worth a thousand prayers, each time you see it.” All of us can help, especially if our help begins by joining them in prayer.
The picture of the Ukrainian Christians is a simple yet profound sermon. Our world needs the love of God in order to have the life God wants for us to live. As I looked at that picture, I realized I will know each of those people one day, in heaven.
I looked at their faces and wanted to pray for them even more than I had before.
The picture wasn’t new
The photo of the Ukrainians kneeling in the snow isn’t new. This group has been kneeling in prayer every day, regardless of weather, for many years. They began this habit in 2014, when tanks and soldiers rolled into their country.
The article I read that contained this picture was written in 2019 by a missionary named Nicole Leigh. Her article explains why this small country is standing against Russia. Nicole’s words from 2019 could have been written today: “This wasn’t a political battle, it was and is a spiritual battle of epic proportion as their freedom to worship, meet together as churches, pray publicly, and share their faith with others was all under threat.”
She described the people kneeling in prayer this way: “This is the generation of the children whose fathers were killed for their faith, whose fathers spent most of their time in prison for their faith. We knew the real face of Communism, and it was trying to come back.”
Why should we join the Ukrainian people in prayer?
Nicole Leigh wanted us to pray for the Ukrainians in 2019, when she wrote the article. She was a missionary with the International Mission Board in the region. She knew the Lord was using that country of persecuted Christians to bring faith to people who had grown up without an opportunity to know God.
She wrote: “After years of praying and paying dearly for their faith, God brought religious freedom to the country. Since that time Ukraine has become the Bible Belt of Eastern Europe. It is the hub of evangelical life throughout the former Soviet Union, leading the way in planting churches and sending missionaries.”
None of us should be surprised that they continue to struggle and fight for their independence. All of us, who call them our brothers and sisters in Christ, should pray for them like they are family.
They are family.
Pray with powerful love
I spent the month of February focusing my blog posts on the love of God. His love is our strength, our hope, our help. But, I wanted to close the month out by speaking of the incredible power that our love for God can release into the world.
If you have watched the news, you don’t need convincing. There is an increasing darkness we need to pray about with the same kind of devotion we see from Christians in Ukraine. God doesn’t just want us to be aware of people around us; he wants us to help.
If the Christians in Ukraine can get up each day to publicly kneel in the snow to pray, we can kneel in prayer with them. We will, if we truly recognize what is behind the darkness we sense.
1 Corinthians 13
The city of Corinth was like all of our cities today. Most of the people were lost, confused, and looking for something to make their lives better. Paul and others brought the gospel message to them. Most of the time, when you hear verses from 1 Corinthians 13, you are at a wedding. Paul was defining Christian love but, while those verses can apply to marriage, they are actually to be applied to every relationship in life.
Paul began the chapter saying, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1–3).
On the other hand, if we live with God’s powerful love behind our words, our strength, our wisdom, and our motivation, what do we gain?
Paul ends chapter 13 saying, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). There is no greater power or purpose in life than to understand God’s love as our highest calling.
Love is a powerful commandment
Jesus didn’t encourage us to love others; it was a command. Jesus told his disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus was intentionally blunt when he spoke those words.
I like the quote attributed to Mark Twain that says, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” We won’t have any excuse or explanation for missing the lesson Jesus taught his disciples. We are to love others as Jesus loves them.
When we pray for the Ukrainian people, we should pray for them as the beloved children of God, our brothers and sisters.
When we interact with people in our lives, they should sense that Jesus is behind our words, our strength, and our motives.
Before we close the lids of our computers or sweep to the next email on our phones, let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine like Jesus would pray for them—like Jesus is praying for them.
His is a powerful love that changes the world.
Let’s receive it from Jesus, then give it away.