When praying to God for the end of the war in Ukraine, it can be tempting to ask God to force Russia to stop the bloodshed.
What this would entail is God overriding the free will of the Russian soldiers and forcing them to stop the violence.
However, as much as we would like God to force Russia and Ukraine into a ceasefire, that is not how God works.
God respects our free will
We may not like it all the time, but God created us as free creatures, not robots who can be reprogrammed.
The Catechism of the Catholic Churchexplains the freedom God has given us.
“God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him” (GS 17 § 1).
Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one’s own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.CCC 1743-1744
If we were not given freedom, or if our freedom could be turned against us, we would no longer be responsible for our actions.
Freedom characterizes properly human acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.CCC 1745
If God were to force Russia against their own free will, it would violate our trust in God and would render our own actions subject to the “whims” of an unjust God.
If God took away our free will, then the whole system of divine judgment would be put into jeopardy.
Most importantly, we wouldn’t be able to love God if our free will were taken away.
Miracles and God’s grace can influence our decisions
However, God can “influence” us in a positive way through grace and miracles.
Freedom and grace. The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world:CCC 1742
Essentially, grace can work within our hearts so that we can freely choose to love God.
This is how our prayers can positively influence Russiaand Ukraine, flooding the politicians and leaders in both countries with a river of grace, giving them every opportunity to stop the war.
Additionally, miracles can further impact a person’s free choice, giving them even more opportunities to freely choose God.
The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for “offense”; they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his evident miracles some people reject Jesus; he is even accused of acting by the power of demons.CCC 548
Miracles can’t force Russia or Ukraine to stop, but they do give them the opportunity to accept or reject God.
God may not force us to stop the war, but he can (and will) provide the us with the grace and miracles we need to freely choose to stop the violence.