When I say “Pray For Our Troops” I mean, “Pray for our American Troops”. The nostalgia and nationalism that many Christians today unite to their Christianity is preposterous. I find in scripture no attachments to any country, no attachments to any citizenship, no attachment to any nation that Christians are commended to have, except to the Kingdom of Heaven. If anything we are encouraged in the opposite direction. Find me in scripture where we are directed to pray “Only for our own race, our own people, for our troops.” What is interesting about this prayer is not who you are praying for, but who you aren’t praying for. When many Christians pray for our troops only it is as if we are on some divine mission in the war that our country has commissioned. I intend not to raise questions whether or not the missions our country (or any other country for that matter) decides to engage in is valid in its exertion of justice, only to awaken the skewed, ungospel-like praying that many Christians, especially pastors, publicly engage themselves in.
What would our Christian brothers and sisters who, for example, are in Iraq or Afghanistan and are in desperate trouble from treacherous American Soldiers who rape their Iraqi & Afghani women, think about our prayers only directed towards the troops alone? Or what about those other brothers and sisters who are killed in the war as bystanders, and we pray for the safety of our troops, the majority of which are not Christian, and neglect praying for our family in Christ who are endangered by the very troops we support? What about all the millions of sinners in the Middle-East who have not heard the Gospel? We think we are doing a great service to God and our country by lifting up prayers for our troops. If these are the only people we pray for, then it is appalling.
Christians dare not suppose that they can pray only for the troops and neglect the rest of the people involved in the war. The Americans involved in the war (the majority) are just as much sinners deserving of God’s wrath as all the civilians and terrorists. I don’t think God is pleased or honored with such narrow minded self-appraisal as to pray only for our troops. They are not on a divine mission. Though I stand for justice, for freedom and people being liberated from oppressive regimes, our concern is not simply the ‘liberators’. If we are to be truly Christian, we must pray for peoples on both sides of the battle.
What must we pray then for the terrorists? Surely we are not going to pray the same kind of prayer for people who are bent on injustice as those who are exercising justice. Our prayer must primarily be for the salvation and peace for all people. Our prayers must First extend to our brothers and sisters in Christ whether they be Americans, Iraqis, Afghanis, etc. They are Christ’s primary concern and therefore should be ours. Second, our prayers should be that the Gospel would spread to all peoples, on both sides, to the American troops, to the civilians, and to the terrorists. God does not discriminate between who should and shouldn’t be the recipient of prayer and salvation. Third, our prayer should be for Justice. Although America has not committed the atrocities or acts of terrorism on the scale that many of the terrorist regimes in the Middle-East have, none the lest, America has not remained faultless in it’s battles. We must pray for justice, and those who execute it and those who recieve it, whether it be negative (as for people causing terror) or positive (for those executing judgment on terror or evil deeds). Fourth, we must pray for peace. I am going to make an assumption, but I do not believe it to be too far off. Many Christians in our country want peace, not because they are primarily concern with the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being of peoples in other countries, but instead many Christians want peace because they don’t want those battles reaching our shores to disturb our quaint, trivial lives. We must desire peace for those in other countries whether they be believers or not.
Christ calls us to love our friends, but more importantly our enemies.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
This verse should make it blatantly clear how we should be in prayer for those in conflict. Christians do not ‘pick sides’. We work for justice and peace and desire it, and we desire it for all men with no distinction. As noted though, this justice will take different forms for different people. If there are some who have killed innocent persons, justice will come upon them in the form of punishment. If there are innocent people who have been oppressed, justice will come in the form of freedom. This is what I mean by praying for justice for all people. But as Jesus so clearly points out, if all we are doing is praying for our troops, we have done nothing better than secular pagans.
Perhaps the clearest form of what our prayers should be in these situations is clearly stated in 1 Timothy 2:1-3, which I will close with
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.