Every time it is my turn to offer the pastoral prayer, I pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2 "...I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity....") and for our troops overseas. I pray for our troops because some of them are my friends' children, and so I am more acutely aware of my friends' prayers for their safety than I was before I had children, and especially children of military-service-age.
But in recent months my prayers for our soldiers have become more layered than they began. In the beginning I prayed for their safety and for their soon return home, as I imagined young people in the circumstances of war and put my kids' faces on them. But now as this war grinds on and I realize the circumstances they are indeed in, I have begun to pray that they will be agents of righteousness, justice and peace...and that they would know how to proceed in that manner in circumstances where "what to do" is not always clear.
As we always pray for our kids, I've begun to think of each soldier as an individual who is presented, moment by moment, with an opportunity to do right or wrong. I pray for them to know God, and to be able to put their actions and motives before God and be vindicated. Warfare doesn't really have pure choices, and I know that soldiers often have to choose a "bad" in order to avoid an "evil." What soldiers are called upon to do, in the best of cases, still changes them forever.
But as I read the paper today, that it is charged that members of an American platoon saw an Iraqi woman, took note of her, came back and raped her, then murdered her and her family and burned the body to cover up the crime, I am shaken to know that people wearing "our" uniform have behaved in this manner because we have given them the power. They carry weapons and have ultimate authority over the people in another country, and if indeed these people did this, we are all charged with it. This strikes me as not the same thing as the crime charged against a group of soldeirs who, it is said, wiped out a couple of families in a rage after one of their buddies was killed. While that is not excusable, rage is perhaps an explanation. But what is this crime but lust and hatred given expression because the criminals were given the power to do it?
For those of us who thought Americans were "better" it is a wake-up call. The Bible tells us we all have a "sin nature," the propensity to do evil because it serves our own vision of ourselves as God. We often don't like to believe that. But the Bible tells us it is there in all of us. And yet God loves us still and rescues us from it.
So now I pray for our soldiers that God would keep them from harm and from harming. That they would be the hands and feet of justice, and not crime. That in each of their hard decisions, and I do not minimize how hard those decisions might be, they would choose the righteous thing. And that those who do not would be brought to justice quickly so that justice would not be lost in the midst in this war.
And that they be kept safe, and brought home soon.
May God bless America, and Iraq, and all the nations of the world as people who seek God's face pray in His Spirit.