A War Prayer for the Twenty-First Century
by Laurence M. Vance
Since the bombs began to fall on Baghdad in March of 2003, churches, Christian leaders, religious organizations, and individual Christians have been telling us to pray for U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq. We have been told to pray for the safety of U.S. troops while they defend our freedoms, protect us from another terrorist attack, rid the world of weapons of mass destruction, bring to justice the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, fight the global war on terrorism, liberate the Iraqi people, spread democracy, fight “over there” so we don’t have to fight “over here,” protect American interests in the Middle East, ensure the security of Israel, and make the world a better place.
There are several problems with these war prayers.
First, our “enemies” are praying the same war prayers. The citizens of other countries likewise ask God to bless and protect their troops. How is the Lord going to take care of both sides in the same way? American Christians just assume that God will not bless and protect the troops on the other side. American troops alone are dear to the heart of God.
Second, why is it that war prayers never seek to limit war? In his “Prayer before Battle” from “Some New Prayers” (CWE, 69:137), Erasmus gives us a model:
Almighty king of Sabaoth, that is, of armies, you determine both war and peace for the regions of the earth by means of your angels appointed for the task. You gave new heart and strength to the boy David, so that although he was small, without weapons, and unskilled in war he attacked and overthrew the giant Goliath with a sling. If we are fighting for a just cause, if we are forced to fight, I pray you, first, to turn the hearts of our enemies to the desire for peace, so that no Christian blood may be spilt upon the earth; or to spread the fear that men call panic; or to let victory be gained with the least shedding of blood and the smallest loss by those whose cause is more pleasing to you, so that the war may be quickly concluded and we may sing songs of triumph with one accord to you, who reign in all and above all. Amen.