Christians and Jews unite across Ukraine to pray this Psalm

“I read it differently now … this ancient prayer is alive.”

Ukrainian Christians and Jews are united in praying Psalm 31 as they face the increasing likelihood of war with Russia.

This Psalm of David reads:

Ukraine crisis as Russia invades

1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
    as for me, I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
    but have set my feet in a spacious place.
9 Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
    I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
    I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
    and plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
    for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
    and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
    for with pride and contempt –
    they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
19 How abundant are the good things
    that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
    on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
    from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
    from accusing tongues.
21 Praise be to the Lord,
    for he showed me the wonders of his love
    when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help.
23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
    The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
    but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

The Chief Rabbi in Ukraine invited Christians to join Jews in praying the Psalm this week, drawing on established interfaith relationships to spread the word.

“The Chief Rabbi unexpectedly invited all us Christians and all Ukrainians to read Psalm 31 during these difficult times,” says Anatoliy Raychynets, the Deputy General Secretary for the Bible Society in Ukraine.

“For me, as a pastor, that Psalm … well, I read it differently now, because it’s about our current situation in Ukraine. This ancient prayer – written several thousand years ago – now we see is so alive, is living.”

Raychynets says that Ukrainians are asking “serious questions” in the face of the crisis and Christians need to give them serious answers.

“Our answer, first of all, as a worker of Bible Society and as a pastor in church, is that we invite them to join praying the prayers in the Bible,” he says.

“In the stories in the Bible, we see stories of people going through different, difficult, challenging times. Times of war, of hunger. These are good stories that are teaching us.

“So when people come to us asking questions, we pray together. We encourage them to stand for peace and to pray for peace. We don’t pray for victory over our enemy. We pray that the diplomacy of Ukraine and the whole world will bring a solution. We pray that God’s miracle happens because we know that it must be a miracle to stop this. So we read the Bible with people and pray.”

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1.5

When asked if any other Bible verses have come alive to him personally in recent times, Raychynets replies quickly.

“I don’t need to think long because I can immediately answer you. It’s the gospel of John, first chapter and first five verses, where we read that the light came into the darkness and the light shined out in the darkness,” he says with enthusiasm.

“And then verse five: ‘… and the darkness never overcame the light’. We know this Light who came into the world and what he did for all of us! And we are called to bring this light – we are to contain [carry] this light. We, as Jesus’s disciples, as the Church, are called to bring this light now, in all those dark places – [whether that be] dark hearts or hearts which are in darkness.”

Raychynets explains how encouraging it is to see that the Bible’s verses are “not just written words”, but active and applicable to real-life now.

“It’s a ‘living word’, as a lady said to me last week in the Sophia Cathedral,” he says. He shares the story of an older woman who approached him after a prayer meeting and told him she had been praying Psalm 31.

“It is living words!’ she told Raychynets, going on to report that after reading the Psalm, she had experienced a deep sense of comfort and calm.

“This is how the word of God is working in the souls of us human beings in Ukraine right now,” Raychynets says.

To read more about Christians in the Ukraine and a list of prayer points suggested for Eternity readers by Anatoliy Raychynets, the Deputy General Secretary for the Bible Society in Ukraine, read ‘Ukrainians turn to God as threat of war increases‘.

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Bible Society Australia’s Ukraine: Emergency Response

This project is supporting Ukrainian churches who are bringing comfort and encouragement to the people of Ukraine at a time of military escalation and amidst the threat of war.