I attended a National Day of Prayer event at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, today. It was an inspiring event. From the singing of the National Anthem to the prayers to Chaplain (Colonel-Retired) Scott McChrystal’s well-spoken remarks to the concluding chorus of God Bless America, it was an uplifting experience. I appreciated a First Infantry Division Band quintet playing “Salvation Is Created,” a work composed by Pavel Tchesnokov, a Russian composer. In 1976, I sang that song with the Freed-Hardeman College (now University) A Cappella Singers. Its haunting musical movement still reinforces in my mind the mystery and glory of God’s intervening in human affairs to effect spiritual and social transformation through Christ. Today, we concluded the event with a prayer we sang together, “God, Bless America.” That writer of that hymn of prayer intended no ill towards other nations. Its lyrics are a prayer that people pray for this one particular nation. Several soldiers led prayers. Among those prayers was a prayer specifically for the nation at this point in its history.
In his remarks, Scott McChrystal reflected on how a military chaplain’s prayer for a young ailing soldier many decades ago had benefited him. As the chaplain prayed for this young man that he believed was dying, he prayed for his healing and his readiness to meet God. The soldier told the chaplain to go away; he wasn’t about to die that day. The soldier was Chaplain McChrystal’s father, who went on to a long, distinguished military career before dying at age 89. Chaplain McChrystal reflected on the benefit of that earlier chaplain’s prayer, and of subsequent prayers in time of family crisis, as being indication of why we should pray. He asserted that God hears and answers prayer. Then he asked,
“If God hears and answers prayer, why do we not pray more?”
He challenged us to ask ourselves that question and to identify that for which we would pray if we prayed more. From my perspective, sometimes we act like soldiers who are surrounded by the enemy but refuse to communicate with headquarters and ask for reinforcements or covering fire. We don’t call for fire, and so, often, rescue does not come.
Today is a National Day of Prayer in the United States. Even if you did not attend a prayer event today, I encourage you to pause and pray now for yourself, for your family and friends, for our nation, and for God’s message of reconciliation to spread in our world. If you are not an American, please pray for our nation, and pray for God to bless yours as well. Live with love. Seek peace. Obey God. Pray hard, my friends.
O God who creates and renews, look upon our nation and refresh our love for peace and for life. Help us to cherish conversation that challenges each of us to grow in developing moral values and fortitude that will build cohesion in an age of controversy and lies. Sharpen our minds so that we will seek knowledge of your will, so that we will remember to pray. When we pray, give us wisdom so that we may choose our words carefully as we approach you, our Creator and Sustainer. In Jesus’ name, amen.