Australians join global day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine

Australians are joining Christians across the world today to pray and fast for peace in Ukraine, in response to a call from Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis appealed to the church to dedicate this Ash Wednesday, March 2, to prayer for Ukraine, saying, “I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”

Ukraine crisis as Russia invades

He also prayed that “all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.”

Leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia Bishop Mykola Bychok had already responded to the Pope’s request by previously holding a whole day of prayer. In urging people to join a day of prayer and fasting, Bishop Bychock said: “When the news from all the media is heard every day, depriving us of our peace, when fear takes over our hearts, the Lord says to us, ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t worry, because I am your God! I will give you strength, I will help you, I will support you with my victorious right hand’ (Isaiah 41:10) …

“Today we as your children, bow our heads before You and ask for peace for the Ukrainian land, protect us from visible and invisible enemies who want to harm us. For we have no other help, we have no other hope but You.”

Bishop Bychok has also urged Australia’s Catholic Ukrainian community to dedicate every Friday to prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine.

“Prayer is more powerful than bombs.” – Archbishop Mark Coleridge

Archbishop of Brisbane and president of Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Mark Coleridge urged Catholic parishes, schools and other Catholic communities to heed the Pope’s call.

“Prayer is more powerful than bombs. So we’ll be praying for an immediate ceasefire and a return to reason and negotiation. We’re also praying for those who have been killed, wounded or forced to flee,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli, who will join Bishop Bychok in leading services today in Melbourne, said in a letter to Catholic churches:

“All of us can do what we can in praying for the emerging conflict, for the conversion of hearts, especially for national leaders, and for working in our own backyard for peaceful action of justice and reconciliation.”

Archbishop Comensoli made the following suggestion to guide prayers for Ukraine: “For private prayer, perhaps we could turn to the prayer of Jesus for peace in John’s Gospel (Ch14). May the God of peace enter the hearts of those who are intent on war, and may the Queen of Peace intercede with her Son, the Prince of peace, for the sake of the peoples of Ukraine here and in their homeland.”

Australian church leaders from other denominations are also rallying to support Pope Francis’s call to pray for Ukraine.

Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kanishka Raffel posted the following prayer:

“The world is dismayed, though perhaps not surprised, to find that Russia has illegally invaded Ukraine in an act of unprovoked and unjustified aggression. We fear that the toll on the brave people of Ukraine will be heartrending and dreadful.  The world has had to engage in defensive action to protect the innocent and to contain aggressors in the past.

“We must pray for the government and people of Ukraine, the people of Russia who live under an authoritarian regime, for the leaders of the world that they will respond with wisdom and courage and for the restraint of evil and the restoration of peace, with justice.

“Psalm 10 says ‘Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.’

“And so we ask –

“Sovereign Lord, you observe all those who dwell on earth. Have mercy we pray on those who now suffer the miseries of a war not of their own making. Have compassion on the wounded and dying; comfort the broken-hearted; confound the hatred and madness of those who make war; guide our rulers, bring war to an end, bring peace across the world.  Unite us all under the reign of your Son, the Prince of Peace, before whose judgment seat the rulers of the world will give account, and in whose name we pray. Amen.”

“The pursuit of peace is at the core of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” – Rev Sharon Hollis

Uniting Church in Australia President Rev Sharon Hollis has invited Uniting Church members to join in praying that peace would prevail in Ukraine, and to pray for all those affected by the violence taking place.

“The pursuit of peace is at the core of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We hold in our prayers the people of Ukraine and Russia who are impacted by this conflict,” she said.

“We join the World Council of Churches (WCC) and others across the world in denouncing the use of armed forces. We lament the lives lost and the violence that has already taken place. We call on those in power to seek a path to peace that will save lives.”

Rev Hollis provided the following prayer for congregations to share:

“God of peace, God of mercy,
We pray for the people of Ukraine,
We lament the violence that has come to their country,
We ask for comfort for those who mourn, hope for those who despair and compassion for all who suffer.
We plead for an end to violence and aggression in their land.

“We pray for the people of Russia,
We give thanks for those who protest for peace and pray for ongoing courage.
We ask for a change of heart in those who commit acts of aggression and war against their fellow citizens and neighbours.
We pray for Russians who will suffer because of sanctions and war.

“We pray for leaders around the world.
We pray that world leaders might work for an end to war and for establishing of peace.
We seek wisdom for those who are making life and death decisions about how to respond to violence and threats of violence.
We ask for courage for those who campaign for peace.

“We pray for aid workers and journalists.
We give thanks for the willingness of aid workers to work in situations of war and unrest in order to meet the needs of others.
We ask for safety, wisdom and compassion for all working to alleviate suffering and heal the wounded.
We pray for journalists and media organisations reporting the situation in Ukraine and Russia; may they report truthfully and compassionately.

“We pray for peace,
We lament violence around the world,
We plead for the ceasing of violence and the establishment of peace.
We pray that you might give us a desire for peace and a willingness to work and hope and pray for peace each day. Amen.”

“The number one prayer request was for safety.” – Bob Mendelsohn

Australian Baptist churches will be praying for “the unfolding situation” in Ukraine in a national movement-wide prayer gathering this evening.
Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church of Australia Peter Barnes has also called his denomination to prayer for the war in Ukraine and launched an appeal for funds to aid Ukrainian refugees who are pouring into eastern Hungary.

Director of Jews for Jesus in Sydney Bob Mendelsohn has already led three online prayer sessions for Ukraine and its surrounds.

“The number one prayer request was for safety and the like (assurance, comfort, stability and peace) for the people of Ukraine. Many Scriptures were read and agreed by the dozens of folks on each Zoom call, and that was not insignificant,” Mendelsohn told Eternity.

Alongside many local prayer vigils and services planned for today, Australian Christians will also join in global prayer events.

A combined online service is being held by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the World Methodist Council (WMC). These groups combined represent around 260 million members.

“Despite what is happening in Ukraine, I still believe that the international community can make a difference as we collectively work for peace in the region,” said Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council.


Some prayer points to help

A Prayer for Ukraine

Gracious God, we pray for the people of Ukraine suffering from war.
May they be held in your loving care and protection and given the strength to endure their suffering and hardship.
Transform the hearts and minds of those who perpetuate the violence and oppression.
Grant wisdom to world leaders in advancing efforts toward peace; may they not be compromised by self-interest and blind indifference.
We ask all this … in the name of your Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

(Edited version of a prayer from St Therese’s Essendon parish website)