Ukraine’s Plight and Jesus’ Ascension


Ukraine’s plight has gripped the world’s attention from the moment Putin began his war of aggression against this former Soviet republic.

We wake up each day to check the headlines. Has Ukraine’s plight worsened during the last 8 hours? Are they beginning to fall beneath the pummeling of bombs? Are supplies of food, medicine, and other necessities reaching those who lack them? How can the citizens of Mariupol survive a 90% destruction of their infrastructure?

As citizens of the United States we wonder, How can we help them? Yet, how can our help not provoke World War 3? The careful dance of formal diplomacy must side-step world war while advancing real assistance to the battered Ukrainians. It’s tricky. And frustrating. The heart desires what the mind must reject.

However, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are not restrained by political necessities. We can give humanitarian aid through a growing list of channels. Churches, denominations, and already existing ministries are setting up secure websites through which we can direct our mercy into food, medical supplies, and other needs. These funds not only provide practical support, they sustain the morale of those who need endurance as the conflict continues. It’s good to know we can give.

But that’s not all. We have access to a higher office than President Biden’s or Supreme Leader Vladimir Putin’s, a new title he has been pursuing in order to retain power when his presidency ends.

Because believers have access to The Highest Throne, we can pray.

Does prayer sound like a lame, low cost, last ditch resource to offer these suffering Ukrainians? Not if we remember Jesus’ ascension.

Does prayer sound like a lame, low cost, last ditch resource to offer these suffering Ukrainians? Not if we remember Jesus’ ascension.

Ukraine’s Plight: The Powerless before the Powerful

A savvy use of social media has helped us visualize Ukraine’s plight. Headlines give us the big picture, like the one published on March 22, 2022: Ukraine’s leader says, ‘Nothing Left’ of Mariupol; Kherson also facing humanitarian Disaster.  Our eyes glaze over with statistics, but the phrase “nothing left” leaves us with a mental picture.

“Once again it is clear that the occupiers are not interested in the city of Mariupol. They want to level it to the ground and make it the ashes of a dead land.” Reuters, March 22, 2022

In addition to social media, President Zelensky’s background as an actor enables him to show us not only the numbers, but the human face of suffering. Why? Not to win a social media popularity contest, but to bring his country’s plight from our minds to our hearts. Certainly, a wise plan for securing help.

Ukraine’s plight–pummeled by shells, surrounded by enemies–continues to unfold before the world’s eyes. Despite a lull in hostilities as they entered week 5 of this war on March 31, it was merely the calm before a more powerful storm. Racing for supplies while bracing for renewed attack, ordinary citizens are displaying courage to a watching world. This is determination, not default. They are not giving up, but digging in.

The Russian retreat on April 2 (still April 1 in the US) was a cynical April Fool’s prank. Even as they begin to leave Kyiv, Russian soldiers are scattering land mines in their wake. Booby traps to remind the Ukrainian citizens that they are still at risk. To project the image of Russia’s power. And leave the Ukrainians with one message: they are the powerless before the powerful.

To leave the Ukrainians with one message: they are the powerless before the powerful.

Ukraine’s Plight and Jesus’ Ascension

In the face of these grim realities, what possible help can our prayers give to the citizens of Ukraine, especially the church? How can invisible words, spoken silently or cried out loud bring assistance to those who suffer visible attack?

The prayers of God’s people are effective primarily because Jesus himself, ascended and reigning, is praying, too. Our prayers, intertwined with his, are made perfect and powerful.

We pray because Jesus is praying, too.

Jesus prays because he shares our humanity. He descended in order to suffer with us. To die for us. He knows what it feels like to have nerve endings. To be pushed past physical limits so that you must cry out to God. He himself endured the suffering of the powerless before the powerful.

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18

Jesus descended to suffer with us. He ascended, taking his body with him, to pray for us. For Ukraine. And for his church there.

Let’s pray for Ukraine when we read the latest headlines, which cause us to feel a little of what they are feeling. That feeling reminds us to pray as if we were suffering, too.

Let’s pray for them using words that we would want others to pray for us. Solidarity in prayer comes from our common humanity. Sympathy becomes empathy. Their fears become our fears, their pain becomes our pain.

Let’s pray for God’s help to the people of Ukraine because our prayers are united to Jesus’ prayers. And now that Jesus has ascended, he carries our pleas to the highest throne.

My prayers may be feeble and forgetful. But Jesus’ prayers are powerful and constant.

Jesus’ Triumph and the Prayers of the Saints

But our prayers are more significant than that. They have weight as God works out his purposes for human history.

The book of Revelation is about Jesus Christ overseeing the last chapter of history, the long chapter we are in right now. It is about the Ascended Christ reigning from heaven, while we wait for his return.

Though he may seem far away, in the Revelation Jesus assures us that knows his people intimately, speaks to us through the Scriptures, and takes our prayers seriously.

Quite to my surprise, I see that when Jesus begins to wrap up world history from the throne of heaven, he picks up the prayers of the saints as part of his mighty sword. He is the only one worthy to open the sealed judgments against the crimes of humanity (Revelation 5:9,10). As he begins to open the seals, we find our prayers are in his hand.

Final judgment begins with a holy silence. The angels prepare to blow the trumpets. But first, they gather together the prayers of the saints–the suffering church and those who pray for the suffering church. Prayers that seemed weak and ineffective when uttered under duress. Prayers that didn’t seem to be answered as pressures increased and strength ebbed. These very prayers, uttered in hiding, from subways and shelters and bombed out neighborhoods, are mixed with the incense of God’s fiery judgments.

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne….Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightening, and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:3, 5

In response to our prayers, Jesus will bring the end of history as we know it. God not only hears the prayers of his people. He keeps them until the day that he answers them. The day when he pours out all the prayers of all his people for justice against their unrepentant enemies.

So keep praying. Your prayers matter now–and forever.