War Prayer for the 21st Century

Tomorrow at 4 p.m. Central before evening services at 5, there will be a prayer service at the church I attend asking God’s protection of our troops in Iraq, especially in the days preceding free elections there.

Our minister’s sermon afterwords will be about prayer, and I’ve been asked to read two scriptures: Luke 18:9-14 and Psalm 51.

I haven’t been asked to pray at the prayer service before, and I confess that I’m relieved.

I wouldn’t know how to pray among my siblings, the vast majority of whom have a very definite perception of the war in Iraq and the policing/nation-building activities that continue. Having neither the writing talent nor the wit of one of my literary heroes, Mark Twain, I would be unable to equal, let alone excel, his deservedly reknowned War Prayer. Still I wondered yesterday, as I was driving home from work, how I would pray genuinely if I had been asked, and this, in prettier words, is what I prayed:

Father God,

I don’t know how to ask this, because I don’t know where Your heart is in this matter. There was a time when You commanded Israel’s armies to give over to You entire cities – men, women and children – by completely destroying them … something there’s no word for in my language. My heart believes that’s a good thing, because at a later time Your Son taught people to be peacemakers; to offer the other cheek to those who would strike them … Someone whose most violent act was to drive animals out of Your house and flip over the tables of swindlers there.

I don’t share the belief of many of my brothers and sisters in Him that our nation engaged in a “just” war; that it was the right war in the right place at the right time. As nearly as I can tell, we were misinformed or even misled about the reasons we sent our soldiers to Iraq. Thousands have paid for that error or lie with their lives.

I’m troubled because it feels like it was an act of vengeance – which I know should be Yours when wrong is done – whether it was to avenge the attack on our nation, or on Kuwait years ago, or even for the promises to pay others who would terrorize and kill our citizens, even our current President’s father.

At the same time, I have to agree that some good has been done. That genocidal despot who tortured and murdered so many of his own has been toppled like the statues he built at their expense; captured and jailed. I am grateful for that.

The evil of some of his places of torture somehow seemed to have infected our soldiers, Father; yet there are so many more of them and of other volunteers who have gone far beyond their mission to rebuild schools and hospitals; to help little children; to see that food and clean water and electricity get to where they are needed.

And too many have been ambushed, kidnapped, and even executed to repay this kindness. Now we have asked them to put their lives on the line to make it possible for the people of Iraq to freely choose their own new government.

Please, God, protect them as they extend this gift. Bless them with good judgment and kind hearts. May the election proceed untroubled by violence. May it lead to a beneficent government. May it lead to peace. May it be to Your glory.

Bless and protect Mike and Dara and Scott and their sweet families and all the thousands I don’t know, Father. Keep them from harm.

Frustrate and confound the ones who kill others and themselves in the name of Allah. Untwist their hearts and intentions. Help them to see good for what it truly is: not killing, but healing; not forcing one’s will on others, but letting others choose.

And if they cannot and will not be reached by Your love, then when they have exterminated themselves in their own futility, may the meek truly inherit the earth.

All of this I pray not knowing what Your will is in this matter, so I must add the “nevertheless” Your Son added in Gethsemane … and I ask Him to bring you this prayer and all of the other groanings which only Your Spirit can put into words.


3 thoughts on “War Prayer for the 21st Century

  1. I can’t believe it–Mark Twain is one of my heroes, yet I had never even heard of his war prayer. THANK YOU for posting this.
    (Somehow I envision the church in this scene as much like the church in Huckleberry Finn, where the two feuding clans sat on opposite sides of the church until the service was over and they began shooting at each other again.)

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