A Timely Practice: Standing Before God for the Sake of the World

First published in May 2020, we’ve returned in recent days to this article about the practice of intercession. As we’ve watched events unfold at home and in Ukraine, and as Aotearoa, New Zealand experiences the direct impact of COVID-19, many of you will have found yourselves overshadowed, and heavy of heart. Such pain can often be an occasion of the Spirit’s work in us, calling us into Christ’s priestly work of intercession: of standing before God for the sake of the world. As we watch the horrors of war unfold in Ukraine, we are not immobilised by the news, but collect the reports into our prayer, lifting all to the Father through Jesus by the Spirit.

We’ve reprinted the article here as it first appeared, adding also a new collect (a carefully ordered written prayer) for the war in Ukraine. We hope you’ll join us in this work of prayer.

It is the gift of God’s Spirit in us, that he awakens us to the pain of the world—our pain, but also the pain of others. For those who share in the life God opens to us in Jesus, we’re called to a way of hope which is, yes, secure in the face of death, but which also means standing with Jesus in intercession for our neighbours.

We should not be perturbed then if—in a time of praise or thanksgiving—particular people in need or suffering come to mind. We shouldn’t be surprised if, having turned to God in trust, we find ourselves groaning, somehow called to share in the suffering of others, lamenting with and for others to God. Such burden carrying is, after all, the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). And we should not be troubled by the edge of gladness and confidence—even trusting patience—that attends such prayer. Hope is glad, is patient. And our Spirit-birth is into a living hope, our future is a sure inheritance (1 Pt. 1:3-4).

Here is a suggestion, then, for a way to pray.

In a time and place free of distraction or interruption, come before God. Turn to God in praise, praying out loud a psalm—Psalms 67, or 100, or 147 may be helpful doors into prayer.

After some time in praise, ask the Lord:

“Lord Jesus, help me to pray. Lay on my heart whoever you want to, so I can join you in your priestly work.”

Call on the Lord for those he calls to mind.

Remember them before God as you know how, whether with tears, or groans, or simple words.

Finish with thanksgiving.

Here is a collect which you may find helpful as a frame for your own lamentation, or for intercession for others. It is followed by a special collect for the war in Ukraine.

Come Holy Spirit, come Spirit of Jesus,
and complete in us your redeeming work.
Where we are in pain and grief,
Lord, teach us to pray, comfort and strengthen us in these days.
Call us, Lord, into our inheritance as co-heirs with you:
give us grace to share in your sufferings,
and awaken in us your patient hope.
Jesus, High Priest over all Creation, help us in our weakness:
fill us with your Spirit who groans in us and with us,
so that we might share in your priestly work.

Prayer for the war in Ukraine (adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)

Almighty God, King of all kings, and Governor of all things,
to whom it justly belongs to punish sin,
and to be merciful to those who truly repent,

save and deliver the people of Ukraine from the hands of their enemies;
comfort, help and preserve them from fear, famine and destruction.
We pray for those wantonly pursuing war:
abate their pride, assuage their malice, and
confound their plans; grant them true repentance.
Lord God, make this war cease.
We pray for the people of Russia.
Lord, grant them the sight and courage that issue from clarity.
We pray for your Church in Eastern Europe, in Russia and Ukraine:
by your Holy Spirit, strengthen your people in all goodness
that they might be known for works of mercy and justice.
(Here, we invite you to add any further intercessions)
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Image: Photo by Kevin Bückert taken in Ukraine, CC Zero)