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Sackcloth and Ashes and Sighs too Deep for Words

by | Mar 30, 2022 | Humility, Intercession, Unity

Moshe Reuven Asman, chief rabbi of Ukraine, called on Christians and Jews to say together the following words from Psalm 31 as Russian forces attacked the Ukraine on various fronts:

In you, O Lord, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”

(Psalm 31:1-5 NRSV)

People of faith are drawn together to offer comfort and consolation to a nation in desperate need of guidance and grace. It is a time for sackcloth and ashes, ancient symbols of repentance and pleas for mercy.

The world is still in shock at the brutality and inhumanity of the events still unfolding, and yet, in the midst of this madness, we hear story after story of how people are embracing their faith in new and powerful ways. We are hearing of both people and pastors responding in compassion to the situations and circumstances that they are facing daily and facing in faith.

Many of us have been praying for the people caught up in this vicious war. The rabbi has directed us to the words of this ancient psalm which takes on new and powerful meaning as we see these events though the lens of faith.

As today we place ourselves into divine hands, we also place the people of the Ukraine into those same hands, seeking both God’s protection and peace. I adapted a powerful prayer which embraced these thoughts:

Prayer: God, this is truly a season and a time for people of faith to put on sackcloth and ashes — a day of lament, a day of sorrow. We sigh. Help us also to make it a day of repentance, a day of regret. May that regret reach the hearts of leaders who would counsel war and aggression, hostility and violence. We sigh. Romans 8:26 invites us to express and experience the depths of prayer possible in the Spirit, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” We sigh. Amen.

Copyright © 2022, by Kenn Stright <>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional .
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada

Reprinted from PresbyCan with author’s permission