It was about a year into the second Gulf War, and things weren’t going too well. George W. Bush had made the fatal mistake of disbanding the Iraqi army and police force, leaving the nation lawless. Islamist fighters, who were very happy that the secularist government of Iraq had been overthrown by the United States, flowed into Iraq to finish the job by creating a Shariah state.
It was 2002, and I had been invited to speak at a Texas church. At the opening of the service, the pastor asked the congregation to pray for the protection of service members from the church who were in Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly I was hit with this thought: Why are we praying only defensive prayers? Why are we not asking God to give our servicemen victory in the field?
I actually spoke that day on my experiences on Sept. 11. That fateful day, I was on the 14th Street bridge crossing the Potomac River when Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon by Islamists. I was trying to get a message out from nearly the first day after this attack – a warning that this was just the beginning of a hundred years’ war. However, with President George W. Bush singing “religion of peace” from the bully pulpit, few wanted to hear my message.
At the conclusion of the service that day at the Texas church, I asked the pastor if he had ever led his congregation in prayer asking God to give our troops victory. He just sort of stared at me for a minute or so. Finally, he simply said “no.” As we talked, it was obvious he felt uncomfortable with the thought. The evangelical church had developed a message over the past few decades that Christ Jesus was only about peace. Jesus was there to comfort the sick and the grieving. Most in the evangelical church turned to Jesus only for personal matters, such as the health of a loved one, finding a better job, selling a house or bringing a lost child to Christ.
Through the years, I brought the subject up in various places, as our very well armed and educated troops in the field were beaten back again and again. Finally, George W. Bush declared victory in Iraq where there was none. Obama pulled the troops out, leaving a wounded nation and people. The only real “accomplishment” of the second Iraq war was the eradication of the Christian community in Iraq. The Islamists had raped Christian women, stolen Christian homes, murdered Christian men and blown up churches until 80 percent of the Christian population fled. There is no democracy, and other than corrupt officials in the new government, no one in Iraq has benefited from our invasion.
Did anyone ever pray for our victory in Iraq or for our way of life to be shared there? Maybe, I just don’t know. I asked several Army chaplains if they had ever led men in prayer for victory on the field of battle, and the answer was no. The prayers were defensive; they were for protection. I continued to ask church pastors, and one day I asked my Sunday school class to pray for victory. For a few weeks, the class did do that, but soon we were back to asking the Lord only for personal help with health or finances.
I wanted to start a campaign to get churches to pray for our troops to be victorious, but the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and my ministry there kept me away from any organized efforts. That is, until my latest trip to an area of conflict.
I must stop and thank God that the “rebels” I encountered had no idea who I was. Fortunately, I was with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and under their protection. The Brotherhood had something to prove to me, which they did; however, it was not what they wanted to prove. I did learn a lot about the fog of war, as I met dozens of men who had no idea why they were fighting, other than for the glory of Allah. Some, I don’t think were even sure what nation they were in. What I did learn very well is how the Islamists pray.
Every sermon calls for the destruction of the enemies of Islam. Every prayer calls for victory of Islam in armed conflict. Every prayer calls for the destruction of the Jews first, their current enemy second and, finally, America.
The difference was striking. While American Christians pray for better cars, the Islamists pray for the total and complete destruction of Christianity, democracy and the American way of life. While Christians here pray for the safety of a particular soldier who is from one of our churches, the Islamists pray for the death of every American soldier at the hands of an Islamist martyr. For the Islamists, Christians ask God to “open the eyes of the unbelievers.” The eyes of the “unbelievers” are open and looking down the sites of gun barrels at us.
During World War II, virtually every church in the United Kingdom and the United States prayed every Sunday for an Allied victory. That was the last war in which we won a total victory. By the time of the Vietnam War, it was politically incorrect to pray for victory, and victory never came. Praying for victory, even post 9-11, is still politically incorrect – and America is still either losing wars or fighting to a standstill in decades-long conflicts.
In straying from political correctness in the church, I beg to ask the question: If we want to win a war, should we not be asking God for victory? If the answer is yes, pastors can find models for those victory prayers in Psalms authored by King David, among other noteworthy places in the Bible. If, on the other hand, we do not want God’s intervention, perhaps we should prepare ourselves to lose the existential battle against the Islamists.