How are you dealing with the war in Ukraine? Has the constant barrage of negative news left you feeling anxious? Angry? Sick to your stomach?
You may have even found yourself talking to God. Wondering why God just won’t put a stop to the death, destruction and mayhem. Where is God in this time of need?
A couple of years ago I wrote about The Prayer that Turns Anger into Hope. It seems relevant now. Who among us, at least those watching the news, has not found themselves upset, angry or anxious over the past several days?
One potential salve for our distress: Channel our anger into prayer.
The Book of Psalms is a part of the Bible many of us are not familiar with. It consists of a collection of verses that can be read aloud, or silently, as prayers. The Christian sage Richard Rohr points out that while there are 150 psalms in the Bible, a full third of them are “psalms of lament,” an expression of grief or sorrow.
It’s probably no surprise that you rarely hear these verses in church and Rohr believes this is because “we think they make us appear weak, helpless, and vulnerable, or show a lack of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving. We forget that Jesus called weeping a “blessed” state in Matthew 5:5.”
Rohr quotes the Reverend Aaron Graham who tells us that psalms are “a way to voice your own complaints, requests, and trust in God, who is always waiting to hear.” We should remember that our cries are not too much for God to take. In fact, “God wants us to come to the Divine Presence in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our confusion.”
Graham points out that psalms, or prayers of lament, have a 3-part structure that goes like this:
- Psalms begin with a complaint that things are not as they should be.
- They turn to a request. “God: Do something! Help us! Heal me! Show mercy!”
- These laments end with an expression of trust that God is going to make things right.
To show you how this works, here’s an example from the Bible provided by Rohr:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Notice the transition during Psalm 22, from crying by day and finding no rest—to trusting God because God has been there and rescued “our fathers” in the past. It is a cry of anger and lament, followed by the belief that God will make things right.
In times like these, asking God for help may be the right thing to do. It’s known as petitionary prayer and it involves making a request of God. The author Brian McLaren explains the importance of this type of prayer this way:
There is enormous power in simple, strong words—the words by which we name our pain and then translate it into a request to God. Through this practice of petition, we discover the sacred connection can grow stronger through, not in spite of, our anxieties, wounds, disappointments, struggles, and fears.
Psalm 2022/A Prayer for Ukraine
Following the structure set up by Aaron Graham earlier, I have used the words of the Reverend Donna Schaper to create a Psalm-like prayer for our current situation. What follows is an adaptation of one of Schaper’s prayers for those who are “hurt, ill or lost” that I have renamed Psalm 2022.
When will this war be over, dear Lord?
When will the fear, suffering and death stop?
How will you make things right for those who have lost their homes and livelihood,
those who are injured or who have lost friends or family members?
God, make this war go away!
Heal the hurting! Take away our fear! Stop the death and destruction! Show some mercy!
Help those who need your assistance, even if they do not know to call out to you!
You have been there before to assist us in times of need.
So I make this personal plea:
Where there is hurt, help us heal it.
Where there is fear, help us chase it.
Where there is death, help us overcome it.
I trust you and know there are better days ahead.
I pray you bring them to us soon.