A Pacifist Prayer in a Time of War

LONDON, ENGLAND. Ukrainians meet to pray and worship (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

How does a pacifist pray in a time of war?

By John Peachey

First, I reminded myself that Jesus is the full and complete revelation of God and God’s character as a human being. Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Dallas Willard would indicate that a measure of maturity in spiritual formation is how we spontaneously respond to our enemies. Then I remembered the whole story of God. All humans are created in the image of God and of infinite value and worth. Our brokenness and ruptured relationships, systems of violence, fear and greed as a result of sin, enslaved humans to powers of evil. But God breaks through again and again in mercy, in judgment and in deliverance, the Exodus, throughout history, and ultimately in the Messiah to bring us into freedom.

Then I thought of the prayer in Luke 1 of Mary:

‘His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.’

I began to ask the Holy Spirit how to pray and recognized that God’s ways of love often involve bringing us to our senses as humans. As well as praying for the rich and powerful, the arrogant and proud to be brought down, I prayed for those suffering to be protected, provided for practically and lifted up.

Then I felt to pray some more specific things for the ‘enemy’:
  • That aggressors’ boots would be damp and foot disease would spread as a plague hindering movement.
  • That diarrhoea would spread amongst the invading army and last for three or four weeks, debilitating energy.
  • That these plagues would be accompanied by waves of homesickness and thinking about life and God.
  • That aggressors’ tanks would get stuck, break down and run out of fuel.
  • That war supply lines would get tangled and shut off. That soldiers would disobey cruel orders.
  • That lines of communication for the war machine would be confused and break down.
  • I prayed that some courageous leaders of the Orthodox church in both Russia and Ukraine would rise up and speak prophetically.

There are many things a pacifist can pray and expect God to move in ways that might not cause the enemy to feel good, but still be agape for them and their ‘salvation’ in the longer term.

This was a quick response… I hope that more of us will pray in creative ways for God’s mercy and justice to be done in situations of war, such as in the Ukraine right now.

This prayer came by way of a Ukrainian Canadian friend of mine who received an email from her friend John Peachey, a YWAM leader in England.

Meanwhile England announced it will make it easier to accept the flood of Ukrainian refugees irrespective of any familial connections. Many neighbours of Ukraine are taking in refugees at national and personal expense.

Pray for their resources and resiliency.

Now will you join me in praying for the first time, among other things, “that diarrhoea would spread among the invading army…” Creative, and desperate: this is a in the stream of a Psalmic prayer.

I am taken with the Ukrainian crisis.  In the coal vein of my heart are seams of fear and anger and revenge and cowardice and recovering prayer.

Admittedly there have been, and there continues to be many other crises around the world that endure suffering in the shadow of “western” anonymity, out of the spot light of western media. What makes this crisis any different? I suppose it is the size of this growing conflict that just seems to be involving so many nations out of proportion to anything else. No one will escape some consequence of this.

I resonate with something Sharon Kirkey reported in her interview with Dr. Allen Frances (professor emeritus and former chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Duke University School of Medicine):

“It’s not surprising that we identify so strongly with innocent Ukrainian victims of bully Russian attacks.

But it’s hypocritical and shameful that we have been so indifferent to the suffering of the innocent victims of our own wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, and show no concern for the Yemenis who’ve been bombed for seven long years by Saudi Arabians using U.S. weaponry.”

Also see “A Pastoral letter regarding Ukraine” by the Mennonite World Conference.

For more see “To Whom am I a Neighbour“.

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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4 Responses to A Pacifist Prayer in a Time of War

  1. I completely agree with you concerning our indifference to many big difficulties of other nations! Maybe we are waking up from that deep sleep? I, exceptionaly, allow myself to add the link of my post concerning the Ukraine, because it doesn’t appear in the reader: https://rivella49.wordpress.com/2022/03/03/tabletischtavolo/
    Thanks and best regards

    Liked by 1 person

  2. fgsjr2015 says:

    A beautiful, thoughtful piece. …

    From my understanding, Judaism’s messiah is reflective of the unambiguously fire-and-brimstone angry-God Almighty of the Torah, Old Testament and Quran. This thus left even John the Baptist, who believed in Jesus as the savior, troubled by Jesus’ apparently contradictory version of Messiah, notably his revolutionary teaching of non-violently offering the other cheek as the proper response to being physically assaulted by one’s enemy.

    Perhaps Jesus was viciously killed because he did not in the least behave in accordance to corrupted human conduct and expectation — and in particular because he was nowhere near to being the vengeful, wrathful behemoth so many people seemingly wanted or needed their savior to be and therefore believed he’d have to be.

    Still, some ‘Christians’, being vocally very angry and callously cruel, make bad examples of Jesus’s fundamental message of compassion and charity, especially to the young and impressionable.
    I, a believer in Christ’s unmistakable miracles and fundamental message, feel that Jesus must be spinning in heaven knowing what un-Christ-like conduct is erroneously connected to his teachings.

    For example, when a public person openly supports a guaranteed minimum income, he/she is often deemed a communist/socialist and therefore somehow evil. Yet, Christ’s teachings epitomize the primary component of socialism — do not hoard morbidly superfluous wealth in the midst of poverty. (To me, that’s upside-down Christianity.) While he was no pushover, Jesus still was about compassion and charity. He clearly would not tolerate the accumulation of tens of billions of dollars by individual people — especially while so many others go hungry and homeless.

    At the very least, there needs to be more Christ-like Christians publicly speaking out against the un-Christ-like conduct of much of (what I call) institutional Christianity – in particular those who insist upon loudly declaring that God hates this or that group of people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your reflections. I think nothing can be more oxymoronic than for a person who calls oneself a Christian to not lean in the direction of wanting to be more like Christ. I need not comment on “some Christians” other than to confess I am the worst Christian I know, and this realization tends to keep my focus on Christ. We can so easily be “nose blind” to our own inconsistencies (https://rhfoerger.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/noseblind-to-our-own-scent/); we always need a community of the faithful to hold us up. As for Jesus concern for the poor (which is overwhelmingly self evident) – as theologians put it, since “God has a disposition in favour of the poor” – it is reasonable that we would join Him in caring for the poor (ie: speaking into the public square re: g.m.-income). In this theme you may enjoy what Ryan Cook says about “the table as place of possibility” in: https://moreenigma.com/2021/10/11/the-table-is-a-place-of-possibility/. May we continue to become more Christ-like; may we welcome people to our table…

      Liked by 1 person

      • fgsjr2015 says:

        “I am the worst Christian I know”

        Diddo! That is why I never describe myself as being Christian; rather, I refer to myself as a believer in Christ’s unmistakable miracles.


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