Psalm 23: A Prayer for Those Who Guard Us
How do we pray for our protectors? Over 1.3 million U.S. military members currently deployed to Afghanistan and other contingencies around the globe. Each of these has mothers and fathers they have left behind. A great many have wives or husbands and children who remain at home. We, yes, I am one, have homes, friends, churches, bills, school, pets, and many other things we have left behind for the sake of serving our nation.
I am currently on my second deployment to Afghanistan and was often told by people before leaving that they would be praying for me. I imagine this same comment has been made thousands of times in America as our men and women have left home to fight the wars of our nation. Some of you reading this may have spoken those very words, a promise to pray for a soldier, airmen, marine, or sailor while they are away on their deployment. But what do you pray?
Using the 23rd Psalm, I will guide you to pray for the warriors of America. I also hope to give you a glimpse into the every day life of those of us who chose this line of work.
“The Lord is My Shepherd;”
Think of a shepherd. A shepherd is a leader, provider, protector of the ones under him. He plans and orchestrates the events of those under him. He doesn’t just say what to do, but he provides the means to do it. It is no surprise to anyone that the military is very structured. Every person, with few exceptions, enters the military as either an E-1 (Enlisted) or and O-1 (Officer). Everyone progresses and with each new rank comes more responsibility. Early in our military careers we are groomed as leaders. We are expected to follow the orders given to us, but soon become responsible to guide and direct others.
Pray for those is leadership positions. This includes many different ranks within the military. Each is a shepherd; some good, others, well, they need more prayer. Each day these leaders are making decisions about what others are doing. Some are directing people to go conduct combat missions. Others are deciding what to cook or where people will sleep. Every decision made by one of these leaders affects other people. Pray for wisdom for those who lead, guide and direct the daily military operations.
Pray for those under leadership. Military life is about following orders. Every person in the military is taking orders from someone else. From the lowly E-1 to the highest four star general. Pray for obedience. It is God who has placed us under the authority of others. Therefore, If we are to honor God, we must obey those in authority over us.
“I Shall not want.”
I cannot imagine a harder moment than just after kissing my wife and saying goodbye to my five year old daughter and one year old son. I want to be with them and hold them and kiss them so badly. Our warriors give up so much for the sake of our nation. When we wake up in the morning there is no wife to to kiss goodbye as we go to work. There are no kids running and jumping in the bed with us. There are no meals with the family or walks in the park. Birthdays and anniversaries come and go.
It is not just family we are without, though. Every post has a small, what we call, exchange. This the place were we can by toothpaste, socks, knives, boots, soda, etc. It has the basic necessities, but it doesn’t have everything. We don’t have the convenience of Walmart or Target or Walgreens. What they have is what we get. There’s no options and most of the time they are out of what you need.
There is one dining facility on each base. We call them “DFAC.” Now imagine eating three meals a day 7 days a week for at least six months at your least favorite cafeteria/buffet style restaurant. It get’s old pretty quick. One thing you learn quickly at the DFAC is the local and third country national we hire to cook our food just can’t fry chicken or grill meat quite like it is done at home. Our cooks do a great job providing food for the large number of people they must serve, but I don’t think there is a Paula Dean equivalent in Afghanistan.
As you can see there is much to be desired; the comfort of family, the familiarity of home, Chipotle! Many soldier’s days are spent in misery longing for what they cannot have at the moment, and this destroys some. I can assure you our basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and bullets will be met. But each of us longs for home.
Pray for our minds. The mind is a power thing. By nature of what we do we must be sharp and on point, ready to act when called upon. Pray that the desires of home would not be so great that we cannot function.
Pray for opportunities for communication with mom, dad, wife/husband and children. There are many great tools with the internet today, but not every soldier will get the opportunity. Pray that those opportunities will be given to them and that the time will encourage them to press on with the mission that is before them.
Pray for the the wives of the husbands who are deployed. Loneliness and depression come so quickly. They sacrifice as much as the one deployed. Many are living in a city with no family near by. Some are even alone in a foreign country. They want their husbands with them, but at this moment it cannot be.
Pray for the husbands of the wives who are deployed. They, too, carry a heavy load when their wife leaves. Not only do they carry the burden of caring for or maintaining their household, but they have great worry for their wives who are in harms way.
Pray for the wives with children at home or pregnant while the husband is deployed. Caring for children was not meant to be a solo job. Pray for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These moms get no breaks, little rest, and little help. They do all of the cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, and dog walking.
Pray for the conflict that will arise between husbands and wives during the deployment. Conflict will come. Dealing with conflict when you are separated for six months or a year is very difficult. It can be easy for some to avoid the problems all together and stop communication.
Pray for the children of those deployed. They do not understand what is happening. All they know is their mom or dad is not coming home. For the past few Skype dates with my daughter she has told me that her greatest desire for christmas is me. There is a hole in her heart. There is a hole in the heart of every child whose parent is deployed.
“He leads me beside still waters.”
War is busy and hectic. The typical soldier, airmen, marine, and sailor works 12 hours per day 7 days per week. No days off. No nap time. No privacy. Life is go, go, go. Someone is always wanting something from you. Depending on where you are you may have two or three or more rocket attacks in one week.
Pray for rest. Working 12 hours per day for seven days equates to 84 hours of work. That is more than two full time jobs.
Pray for peace. Working that many hours and being around the same people day in and day out will cause conflict. It will cause conflict at work and it will cause conflict with home.
“He restores my soul.”
There is a great need for the gospel here. I am not talking about taking the gospel to the Afghan people or the people of the nation for which we are deployed to. I am talking about the people of our military. They need Jesus. Sin nature is no less prevalent here than it is in any other part of the world.
Pray for the heart of those who do not believe that they will be open to receive the gospel.
Pray for those of us who do believe that we would share the gospel unashamedly.
Pray for the military chaplains who are deployed. They carry the burden for soul care for all of our warriors. Pray that they would proclaim the gospel boldly in the chapel services each week.
Pray for the Bible studies that are taking place on each base. Pray that the Word of God is taught, and that believers would encourage and love one another. Pray for opportunities to attend in the midst of our hectic work schedule.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Death is inevitable in war. According to the Washington Post approximately 2,000 U.S. military members have died in Afghanistan since 2001. Some were accidental, but many were the result of combat action. Not only have we lost men and women, but we have taken the lives of others. Our warriors have seen death; they have seen evil. Not one of us who goes out on combat missions fails to consider what would happen if we hit an improvised explosive device (IED). Or what if a rocket lands on base right where I happen to be standing? Or what if one of the Afghan National Army or police takes their rifle and begins shooting at us on base, where we are supposed to be safe? These are the daily thoughts of those deployed.
Pray for courage for those who believe. For those who believe can say, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” What great comfort there is in those few words. God is with me everywhere I go, all of the time. Therefore I do not need to fear.
Pray for the unbeliever. What can they cling to? Where is their hope? The only hope there is is found in Jesus Christ. They may not believe now, but God may use their circumstances to draw them to Him.
Pray for both the believer and the unbeliever. Dealing with death can wreak havoc on the mind. Whether it is loosing someone close to you in combat or killing another, the mind will be affected. This will effect their ability to work, their relationships with their wives/husbands and children, their walk with God, and much more.
“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
What do you think of when you think of the rod and staff of a shepherd? I picture the shepherd using his staff to guide the sheep. The sheep want to go their own way, but the shepherd, with his staff, brings them back. The best place for the the sheep to be is in the presence of the shepherd. This is where they are cared for, find protection, receive provision, and find comfort.
A military deployment causes much pain and heartache, not only for the military members, but also for the family and friends. There is much need for comfort. Depression lurks at the door to the minds of many. Relationships have been broken because of the tension caused from the separation. Worry slips into our minds due to the seemingly lack of control we have over situations at home. Where can we find comfort? We can find comfort in the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
When events occur in our lives it can feel as if we have no one to turn to. There are no close friends or family to go to with your hurts and pains. There is no church family. Your wife or husband is thousands of miles away. Loneliness can overwhelm.
Pray for the military Chaplains who have been charged with soul care for the military. There are only a limited number of chaplains who are available to provide soul care for the warriors here. They cannot provide for all.
Pray that believers would wholly rely on the Scriptures for our comfort.
Pray that unbelievers would be drawn to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the only true source of peace and comfort.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;”
You cannot have a war without an enemy. Much of the conflict we are in today revolves around the Muslim faith. As believers we know that no amount of social justice will bring peace to this area of the world. There is only one cure, Jesus. We are fighting to restore a government, build schools, and stop and prevent the injustices committed against the Afghan people. But our enemy is doing everything in it’s power to stop us. The Afghan people don’t want the help that we are providing, but that does not deter us from trying. They have been deceived and are separated from God.
In the Old Testament God used the enemies of Israel. It wasn’t typically good for the Israelites in their eyes, but God was using their enemy to mold the hearts of the Israelites. It was part of His plan. God has not changed. He is doing the same today. He works all things. This conflict today is part of God’s plan.
Pray for the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other groups with whom we are fighting. They, too, need Jesus!
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
There is not a soldier, airmen, marine, or sailor here who has not thought about the end of their life in some respect. I promise you that it has crossed everyone’s mind at least once during their time here. With the exception of the Lord’s return, death in inevitable for all of us. Every car that passes our convoys could be a car that detonates. Every Afghan National Army soldier or Afghan National Police officer could be the one that begins shooting. These thoughts are never far from our minds.
There is a hope. II Corinthians 5:1-5 explains this so well.
For we know that if ?the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent ?we groan, longing to ?put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on? we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal ?may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, ?who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that ?while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not ?by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we ?would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to ?please him.
For ?we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, ?so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
This is not an exhaustive list of what to pray for our troops in combat, but I hope it encourages you to spend time praying specifically for the needs of those of us fighting for freedom and those who we left behind. If you know someone who is deployed pray specifically for them. I encourage you to ask them how you can pray for them. We each have our own specific needs and issues that arise during our deployments. Don’t forget their families! They too need prayer, but they also need tangible help. The grass still needs to be mowed. The oil in the car needs to be changed.
Thank you for your prayers. They are greatly appreciated by those of us who believe.