While praying for Ukraine this week in a zoom connection with YWAM colleagues, I remembered a story once told by the late Argentinian-born evangelist Luis Palau.
A concrete wall on his property needed to be demolished so he called in a contractor. Expecting him to turn up with some heavy machinery to do the job, he was surprised when the contractor arrived with only a sledgehammer. No pneumatic drills, just a simple sledgehammer.
Luis asked incredulously if that was really sufficient for the job. The contractor told him just to watch… patiently.
The man swung the hammer against the wall. BAM! And again. BAM! And repeatedly. BAM! BAM! BAM! But the wall stood firm as did Luis’ scepticism. BAM! BAM! BAM! Ten times. Twenty times…
Then, after about thirty swings of the sledgehammer, Luis detected slight movement in the wall. Little cracks began to appear. With each new thud, the cracks grew longer and wider. Suddenly parts of the wall began to break off, and very quickly the whole wall crumbled.
That, said Luis, shows the power of persevering prayer.
A difficult week
As the two-year anniversary of Putin’s ‘special operation’ in Ukraine approaches, we can be tempted to be discouraged and feel our prayers are not being heard.
This week has been difficult for Ukrainians. The war is dragging on with no end in sight. President Zelensky has just fired Commander-in-chief Zaluzhnyi who had used the word ‘stalemate’ to describe the situation on the eastern war front, to the president’s annoyance.
The rest of the world seems to be getting battle fatigue and losing interest, distracted by the tragedy of Gaza (started not uncoincidentally on Putin’s birthday). Republican Senators blocked a $60 billion bipartisan package in military assistance for Kyiv, earning a roasting from Poland’s new prime minister, Donald Tusk: “Ronald Reagan, who helped millions of us to win back our freedom and independence, must be turning in his grave today. Shame on you!”
Intensive drone and missile attacks on a wide of range Ukrainian cities strained the Ukrainian air defence and resulted in multiple casualties and much damage.
Rubbing salt into the Ukrainians’ wounds, former Fox News journalist Tucker Carlson gave Putin a two-hour platform this week to tell the world that the fighting would be over in a few weeks if America just stopped supplying weapons. Yeah right – and then there would be ‘peace’, of the ‘Russky mir’ type. The fawning interviewer was seen by many commentators as latest of a long line of ‘useful idiot’ journalists helping tyrants like Stalin and Hitler.
Also this week, anti-war candidate Boris Nadezhdin was ruled out of standing in Russia’s presidential election next month – due to ‘irregularities’ in the collection of signatures supporting his candidature. Yet for the hundred-thousand plus who stood in freezing conditions waiting to add their support in centres across 40 regions, this official reaction to someone who could be a lightning rod of discontent with Putin’s leadership was predictable and thus all the more reason why change was necessary.
Still, there have been significant positive developments on the war front over the past couple of weeks, in the air and on the sea, if not on the land. Drone attacks have reached targets deeper inside Russia than was thought possible, attacking key military and energy sector targets including oil and gas processing, storage, and export facilities. Drones also recently sank a Russian guided missile ship in the Black Sea, a further embarrassing loss to Russia’s Black Sea navy.
Are we beginning to witness the cracks appearing in the Russian edifice? Will Nadezhdin’s bold effort to openly oppose the invasion of Ukraine encourage more to speak out openly? Are the wives, daughters and mothers of Russian soldiers wearing white scarves and laying flowers at public monuments, calling for the return of their loved ones from the front, an indication that the Russian public are also experiencing war fatigue?
This is no time to pretend that if we ignore the plight of the Ukrainians the problem will somehow sort itself out. It won’t. For Ukraine’s sake, for Europe’s sake, for the world’s sake, the effort must go on – with our support in prayer. And not just for a victory. The only just long term resolution to the conflict requires an upheaval of the Russian mentality, the release of the Russian peoples themselves from the prison of blind subservience to authoritarian strong men.
Truth is God’s sledgehammer. As the Czech reformer Jan Hus famously said, truth prevails! Or as Jesus himself said, truth sets free. Our prayers must be not only be for the freedom of conscience, thought and worship for Ukrainians. It must also be for God’s truth to set the Russian peoples free from their centuries’ old enslavement.
So let’s keep hammering on that wall!
Till next week,