Updated: Mar 10
For more than 2 decades I have heard the name "Vladimir Putin" in the news. Today we in the US have a consensus license to hate and despise the man. It's not official, but it is politically and socially acceptable to speak about him in the most irreverent and hostile way. It doesn't matter what your political leanings are, what your religious beliefs are, or whether you are generally a conservative or a liberal―it is assumed that Putin is our common enemy. And based upon everything I've ever heard or read about the man, the vitriol against him is fully justifiable. He will doubtless go down in western history books as one of the villains of the modern age. He is former KGB and is currently little more than a filthy rich authoritarian dictator. There have been many egomaniacs through the ages who have attempted to conquer their world. Putin seems to just be the current face of such maniacal ambitions. Who knows how many human lives he is responsible for snuffing out?
So what are we to do? I mean, as Christians, how are we supposed to think about this particular despot. He is currently killing Ukrainians and attempting to conquer their nation, replace their government, and take their land. Is this some kind of fulfillment of ancient prophecy? And if it is, what does that mean for us?
We should begin with a few reminders concerning some really evil men from the past, specifically from the biblical record. Nebuchadnezzar might be the best case study. He was certainly a cruel and ambitious conqueror. Life was cheap to him. The blood of many was on his hands. Yet Daniel treated him with respect. He honored him. He even assisted Nebuchadnezzar and rose to a very high rank in that king's governing apparatus. Yet, for sure, God ended up judging Nebuchadnezzar (though not exactly for the reasons we might imagine). It was His pride and disregard for God that cost Nebuchadnezzar 7 years of his life and sanity. But after losing his position, his power, his authority, and even his very mind for a few years, Nebuchadnezzar was not only given his previous status again, it appears that perhaps Nebuchadnezzar was even converted to actual faith in the true God of heaven; the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Daniel.
Consider the Caesar. The apostle Paul aspired to preach the gospel to Rome's Caesar. Why? Presumably because the gospel does actually have the power to save to the uttermost any and all who hear it.
So, seriously here, do we pray for Putin's salvation? Or should we be praying the imprecatory prayers of David. After all, we have reason to believe that Christians and Jews are among the enemies of Putin who stand in the crosshairs of his conquest.
Can we instead pray Psalm 69:22-25 & 27-28 concerning Putin and his comrades? "Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. Pour out Your indignation upon them, and let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents... Add iniquity to their iniquity: and let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." In short, "Father, don't save him; destroy him... or them"
Some would say that we are in a new dispensation, a new age; following a new paradigm, a higher moral system with transcendent objectives. Surely this is true. However, even Jesus harshly rebuked the men in his small setting who used their power for personal gain and whose attitudes were congruent with their prophet-murdering ancestors. John the Baptist withstood King Herod's immoral decisions, and even lost his head for it. Paul didn't coddle his opponent Elymas the sorcerer, he smote him with blindness (see Acts 13). Peter presided over the church offering and spoke words of searching condemnation over Ananias and Sapphira, each conversation ending in their miraculous deaths (Acts 5). The souls under the altar in heaven do not pray for the forgiveness and redemption of their enemies, but for vengeance against them (Revelation 6:10). These are all New Testament examples. Perhaps these are exceptional cases, but their presence is undeniable. Surely there are circumstances where we are spiritually obligated to pray for justice, and not for mercy.
It's a real dilemma. We know God has forgiven and saved us. We know that He is able to forgive and save even the worst of His enemies. We know that Jesus even forgave the very ones who tormented, mocked, and executed Him. So what about Putin and the horrors around him? Is God putting pieces in place for the events of the Tribulation period? If so, should we celebrate?
I'm open to suggestions and criticism on this. I'm not the master. However, let me postulate some possibilities here. These are things that I can "feel good about" as I pray, because I have a biblical basis for praying in these ways. And it's not just for Putin either. Some of this is applicable to some of our own leaders too.
I can pray that God would send some saint to Putin who will have the access and the courage to preach Christ to him. The great commission is an "every creature" injunction. There are no exceptions. Could Putin be saved in the future? Sure. Just as much as Manasseh (king of Judah), Saul of Tarsus, the king of Nineveh, or Dave Talley were saved, Vladimir Putin could also repent and turn to Jesus. Do I expect that to happen? No. But such a change would be in line with the kinds of things that God does.
I can pray for peace. The forks and branches in this mode of prayer go in so many directions that I won't even begin to attempt to cover them all. But for sure, Jesus had compassion on people who were suffering. And there are many people suffering as a result of Putin's decisions. Whether God demotes Putin or causes his purposes to fail, in any case there are Ukrainian & Russian people who are suffering and dying in this invasion. We can pray that the conflict would end and that oppression and aggression would fail very soon.
I can pray for protection for the innocent. There are people all over the world who will be in danger as this invasion wears on. These are sinners like me, yet they have no role in this conflict. They are simply victims. The Bible teaches us plainly that we should be defenders of those who are victims. Strangers, orphans, widows, the sick, those imprisoned, the bruised, the burdened, the weak, etc.―it is our duty and privilege to pray for and assist people in these kinds of situations at every opportunity.
I can pray for wisdom and for a chance to participate in some way that will have a positive impact on the lives of those who are in danger. We could just selfishly pray that the war won't spread to the point that it impacts us too much. We could just pray that gas prices don't climb too awfully high. Or we can seek an altruistic path. We can ask God for an open door to get involved. Then we should start turning knobs and pushing doors. We should put feet to such a prayer.
We can pray for God's people "over there" right now. There are surely ripe opportunities to share the gospel and to show the love of God in the middle of the desperation and danger. We often say in ministry that people in trouble and in transition are the most likely ones to be willing to listen to the gospel. Well, for sure there is more than aplenty of those circumstances in Eurasia right now. We should ask God to provide the energy and boldness for His people to shine His true light effectively in the midst of this sad situation.
We can pray for the demise and/or destruction of Putin and of the system that gave him the reigns of power. So yes, I can with a clear conscience pray that if God is not going to save Putin, that He would drown him like He did Pharoah in the waters of the Red Sea; or that Putin would fall down and be eaten of worms as happened to King Herod; or that he would take his own life and be replaced by a more noble man, as occurred with Judas Iscariot.
So, here we go... let's pray.
Father, send some saint to Vladimir Putin; someone who will have the access and the courage to preach Christ to him. If You were to save His soul, surely the direction of the geopolitical drama would change for the better?
Oh God, bring peace. According to Psalm 11:5, You hate those who love violence. Well, it sure seems like Putin loves violence. So put a stop to his destructive effort. And protect the innocent people who are in danger as a result of this invasion.
Please give me and others like me wisdom, and give us opportunities to have a positive impact on the lives of those who are negatively impacted by Putin's domain. Help us to have the courage and fortitude to look for ways to help and bless those who are in need.
Bless Your people who are in the middle of the desperation and danger in the Ukraine and surrounding the Ukraine. Show them how they can boldly provide hope and help for the hurting around them. Use this tragedy as a platform for the gospel.
Lastly, I offer a humble and sincere petition for the demise or destruction of Putin. If he is not going to learn to fear and follow You, then break his system and break him. Do it in a way that would cause people to know that You are the one who did it. Like Your fame was spread by Pharoah's death in the days of Moses, somehow turn Putin's ambitions against him and use them for Your glory.
This I pray in the name of Jesus, the coming King of all the nations. Amen