On the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion, today Ukraine marked a somber national holiday. Last year on August 24, large crowds flooded Kyiv to celebrate 30 years of independence from the Soviet Union.
For year 31, Ukrainians were ordered indoors—yet remain defiant.
“On Feb. 24, we were told: You have no chance,” said President Volodymyr Zelensky, encouraging the nation. “On Aug. 24, we say: Happy Independence Day, Ukraine!”
President Joe Biden also bolstered Ukrainian spirits with an announcement of $3 billion in new military aid. The American leader noted the “bittersweet” holiday as he praised the nation’s resiliency and pride in the face of Russia’s “relentless attacks.”
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) called for prayer.
“On this day of independence, we want to declare our dependence on God,” it stated on behalf of Ukraine, “the One who can bring true peace to the hearts of each individual person, each family, and even entire peoples.”
Joined by the affiliated European Evangelical Alliance, the WEA petition specified prayers to end the suffering, to spare the world from further repercussions, to strengthen the church’s response, and to marshal peace not through weapons, but through prayer.
Ukraine must defend itself, the WEA clarified; but Christians have a deeper hope.
“Throughout history, God has changed hopeless and dire situations in surprising ways,” stated the petition. “Let us also pray for healing and for reconciliation, and that Russia and Ukraine could live in peace as independent, sovereign nations.”
An accompanying guide for parents offers similar prayers for children.
It will not be easy. An Orthodox priest who performed last rites for the 116 people found in a mass grave in Bucha reflected on his spiritual calling.
“Saying the word forgive isn’t difficult,” Father Andriy told The Associated Press. “But to say it from your heart—for now, that’s not possible.”
As a followup to its March survey of the wartime prayers of Ukraine’s evangelicals, Christianity Today asked a sampling of Christian leaders to explain how the ongoing war has changed how they pray and what they pray for, how they understand unanswered prayers in difficult times, and how fellow Christians around the world can best pray for them now:
Denys Kondyuk, head of the missiology department at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, Kyiv:
My prayers were more scheduled and structured before the invasion. Now they are dominated by requests for health and life, for obvious reasons. And I have seen God answer through many stories of deliverance from very dangerous situations; but of course, there are still many that suffer and die.
The prayer for the war to end is still unanswered.
Ukrainians have focused on verses that emphasize God’s justice, especially those which emphasize there is not much we can expect from people. Others, meanwhile, have found hope in the scriptures that promise our suffering is temporal, awaiting the kingdom of God.
Please pray that God guides us to serve where it is needed, and to be bold in what we do. And ultimately, for the victory of Ukraine—bringing justice to those who suffered and died.
Yuriy Kulakevych, foreign affairs director of the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church, Kyiv:
We are all called to grow in Christ, which includes our prayer life. As pastor of God’s Peace Pentecostal Church in Kyiv, I am encouraging our people to write down their prayers, and how they have been answered. They are too many to remember!
I also proposed the idea that we pray every time we hear an air raid siren. So we are praying much more than ever before. Most commonly, the prayers are for protection
I try not to think too much about unanswered prayers—I just keep praying! The Psalms have been a useful companion, as the word of God encourages, guides, and heals our spirits.
These last six months have been brutal. Please pray for God’s supernatural restoration, and that we don’t lose our focus on saving souls and we work to save the lives of our fellow citizens. If God’s power is manifested, Ukraine will see God’s glory!
Maxym Oliferovski, project leader for Multiply Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia:
Since the beginning of the war, my prayer life has become more intensive—asking for miracles, and expecting them to happen.
I’ve seen so many already.
My confidence in God’s ultimate victory over the evil forces in Ukraine has been strengthened by knowing that so many fellow Christians are supporting us in prayer, all around the globe. Please pray that our churches will continue to minister to our nation, and that God will cause suffering to cease and begin the process of restoration.
Taras Dyatlik, regional director for Overseas Council, and engagement director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia for ScholarLeaders International:
Please pray for silent nights and peaceful skies as we celebrate our independence. God may respond, or he may not. But we still approach him with requests to show mercy to our nation and the church.
But please, share time with those you love. If war ever comes to you, it breaks the windows of your soul, turning it gray and sucking the color from your eyes. Those killed can never again kiss the hand of a wife, the head of a child, or the cheek of a parent.
Every day, 30–50 soldiers are killed, and we cannot count the number of civilians. Every single day within my circle of relationships, I have heard of someone killed by the Russians. My only questions now are these: How long, Lord? Why, Lord?