Unique Prayer Needs of the Military
By Rebecca Shirey
During my husband’s 26-year military career as an Army chaplain, I fell in love with the military lifestyle and people. I especially enjoyed the close-knit camaraderie of the on-post neighborhoods, worshiping as a community in base chapels, and the seeming ease of families to assimilate into yet another new assignment. Even with these shared bonds, the typical military family defies description. They represent a range as diverse as the U.S., but a few characteristics come to mind: resilient, mobile, adaptable, resourceful, tired.
After ten years of war on multiple fronts, the American military and their families are exhausted. Grasping the pressures of war the military faces can be better understood if, as praying people, we apply the realities of spiritual warfare to our prayers. This will help seasoned prayer leaders guide and mobilize churches to pray more effectively for the military. Here are specific ways to pray: Pray life and wholeness. The number of suicides by service members in 2012 outnumbered the troops lost in combat that year. Despite many programs to stem this trend, the numbers remain almost the same so far this year. Programs aren’t the answer. John tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (10:10). At-risk members of the military need to grasp this promise of abundant life made possible through Jesus Christ! But not every hurting person considers suicide. Many returning service members provide examples of courage and faith. Pray for their strength and continued healing.
Pray for re-integration into civilian life. It’s easy to see how multiple deployments can take their toll, but re-integration can be just as challenging. With the drawdown of the war and the decreasing numbers of U.S. forces, the civilian workforce must now accommodate service members returning home. Pray for increased opportunities and financial peace. Financial issues remain a leading cause of family breakdown.
Pray for healed families. Long separations present challenges to the husband or wife serving, as well as the family remaining behind. Physical and emotional wounds, death, divorce, and disappointments cause havoc in any marriage and family. These realities face many military families. Pray for the chaplains serving as marriage and family counselors. Pray for wisdom to speak hope into tough situations. My husband Lou and I recently conducted breakout sessions at Ancora, a training event at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. One keynote presenter recounted how she was left with four children to raise after losing her husband in an explosion in Iraq. She said, “The bomb went off in Iraq but the shrapnel hit our home.” This family now models the hope and healing possible through faith in Jesus. Pray that many more will be able to testify to God’s grace.
Pray for religious freedom of expression. Attempts to restrain religious expression, especially Christian witness, are not challenges limited to the military. It is a reflection of the climate of our country. Contrary to what many believe, within chapel settings, Jesus is proclaimed. Chaplains are required to uphold all the teaching and beliefs of their endorsing denominations. Many military bases have vibrant religious programs and outreaches. Nevertheless, financial constraints and political concerns have hampered and eliminated strong programs uniting families and growing disciples of Jesus. Pray for wisdom and favor as chaplains navigate these new policies.
Pray for revival. The military brings together people from multi-denominational backgrounds. Imagine how a move of God throughout the military community could quickly spread to denominations throughout the United States. The military is a forerunner in many areas. They led the way in integration with the Tuskegee Airmen. They were among the first to include women in the workforce. Many medical advances came as a result of urgent needs on the battlefield. The military can also be a forerunner in a great awakening. The challenges facing military personnel create fertile ground for revival.
Pray for victory over difficult circumstances. When King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites faced terrorizing threats from an enemy, the people cried out to the Lord. He heard their prayers, bringing them an encouraging message through a prophet. “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s’” (2 Chron. 20:15). The vast issues facing the military today present no challenge for God. Pray for God’s intervention as war comes home. And pray that He will be glorified in the midst of the challenges.
REBECCA SHIREY travels internationally as a speaker at conferences and retreats. She served as an advisor from 2006–2010 for Protestant Women of the Chapel International. She and her husband Lou also serve the denominational prayer ministry of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
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