Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Praying with Rick Phillips

On Veterans' Day

I have freely swiped this post from my good friend, Rick Phillips, at Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC. He is a former Army Officer. He offers here helpful pastoral guidance on praying for those in our Armed Services.

"November 11th is our nation’s annual celebration of Veteran’s Day, having been established as a national holiday by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. Previously, Nov. 11th had been designated Armistice Day, to commemorate the Allied victory in the First World War. After the change of name, the holiday was set aside to remember the sacrifices of our veter-ans in all of our wars. According to the original proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson, the holiday was designed to promote reflection “with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

It is entirely appropriate that Christians should join our fellow citizens in expressing thanks to those who have served as veterans in our Armed Forces and also gratitude to God for the peace we have enjoyed through the service of our soldiers, airmen, and sailors.

One of the most valuable ways we can show our thanks to veterans is to devote ourselves in prayer for the veterans who defend us during our pre-sent time of war. We should be praying not only for soldiers who we know and love, but also for all the men and women presently serving in our military. Having been raised in a war-time Army and having spent thirteen years in active duty, let me suggest some items that would assist you in praying for our current veterans:

 Pray for their safety. Every single person in uniform has people at home who love them and who lie awake at night worrying about their safety. Military service is inherently dangerous, and all the more so in a war zone. Pray that God would thwart the evil designs of those who seek only harm. Pray for success in war with a minimum of human casualties, including the beleaguered people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but especially with respect to our military members.

 Pray for their suffering and misery. Many of our soldiers are living a very difficult life. They get used to it, but it is still miserable. Many of them are severely sleep deprived. They are often hungry. They do not often get to thoroughly wash and they suffer from the sun and the heat. Pray for God to strengthen their resolve that they would not be worn down by misery.

 Pray for their strength of heart. They are lonely and sometimes discour-aged. Many of them are seeing heart-breaking scenes. My personal interactions with veterans of this war reveals a significant problem in this respect: returning to “normal” life can be a real trial and the effects of war can scar the soul. Some of our military will doubt the wisdom of our policy or of their particular unit’s command. Pray that they would respond with faithfulness to their duty and courage against difficulties. Pray that they would not be taken up with anger against the enemy or temptation to sin.

 Pray for those who bear great responsibility. A young squad leader has numerous lives in his hands. A young officer, like Matthew Russell from our congregation, is often burdened by the life-and-death decisions he makes every day. Of course they make mistakes, but these mistakes can be costly and can burden their hearts. Pray that they would not falter, nor that they would fail in their duties. Pray that leaders would bend their knees before the Lord, lift up their hearts to God, and seek from Him the wisdom that their responsibilities require.

 Pray that their sacrifices would make a difference for peace. War is always terrible. But a war that does not make a tangible difference for good is particularly bitter. Our military has made enormous personal sacrifices over the last five years and more. May God bless their sacrifice by enabling a stable peace in Iraq and at least a manageable situation in Afghanistan.

 Pray for their families, who daily wonder where their loved ones are and are sacrificially doing without a father or mother, a son or daughter. I personally know a Green Beret captain (and PCA elder) who is serving his fourth combat tour in Afghanistan and who left his wife only a few weeks before she gave birth to their fourth child. Pray that family unity and love would remain strong. Pray that marriages would not be unduly strained, that children would not be embittered by the long absence of their father, and that the daily strain of fear would not break their spirits.

 Pray for Christians and Christian families in the military. They have a significant opportunity to show the power of God’s grace and to share the gospel with many in very great need. Ask God to give them strength to bear rich spiritual fruits and a boldness to witness the gospel. Pray for the Christian soldiers to manage the great strain of cultivating love within a violent occupation, and that God’s Word would restrain them from sin while bearing arms.

Let us not fail to pray for our nation during this time of war, but especially for those who most greatly bear our burdens. May God bless America, may He protect us from wicked enemies, and may God make our country a blessing to all peoples.

In Christ’s Love,
Pastor Rick Phillips

1 comment:

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