Along the Tracks

Thursday, May 02, 2002

National Day of Prayer

I enjoyed this morning’s prayer breakfast at First Pres. State Rep. Steve Buehrer gave a good address on the relationship between religion and government. Compliments to those who organized the event.

A few thoughts:

“God bless America.” The phrase rolls off our lips with little thought of its deeper meaning - and its effects. Look around. God has blessed America. And I’m not just talking about our incredible wealth, our democracy or our freedoms. These are all important, certainly, but the argument could be made (indeed, it often is made) that these “blessings” are intertwined and all stem from the genius of our founding fathers and the struggles since that time to extend opportunity to all. Some of our blessings are harder to rationalize as the works of men. Let’s look at the war in Afghanistan, for example. At this point, America has lost fewer than 50 men in that military action which many experts said would be a “quagmire” and cost hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives. Every loss is a personal tragedy for those families, and must not be dismissed. But the fact remains that precious few have been killed in those dry mountains, compared to what was expected. Sure, you can say technology, excellent strategy and superb training combined with a little luck to keep those soldiers both safe and successful. But if that’s all it is, America is on a heck of a winning streak militarily. People pray for our armed forces every day, more intently and sincerely in the past 20 years after putting the ghosts of our misadventure in Vietnam to rest. The results have been two successfully-prosecuted wars and multiple smaller actions, all with minimal loss to America’s military. I would even go so far to say that by reducing the American casualties, we appreciate each loss more than we might if the body bags came home in droves. Those killed are no longer numbers, 50 here, 100 there; rather they are real people, faces, names and grieving families. It is easier to grieve with a young widow with two children, a grandmother in a nursing home, a father on one side of the country and a mother on the other. We count each life as individually precious, and that builds our resolve to reduce those losses even further. And we pray. And our prayers are answered every day that each of those young men goes to sleep in a dangerous land, still alive and well. Thank you, Lord.

A second note on the Day of Prayer. One of the most counterintuitive, challenging statements Jesus ever made was, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” As we celebrate a National Day of Prayer, let us all remember these words. The redemption of our enemies is the only way peace can ever reign on earth. And let’s be careful about who we designate as “enemies.” Even those with whom we may not necessarily agree politically are still our brothers and sisters spiritually. It’s troubling to hear prayers for Republicans in power while Democrats are notably left off the list. The Bible says God’s blessings are freely given to those who ask; who are we to attempt to withhold those blessings from people, regardless of ideology, who take on the noble task of serving the public? Indeed, the argument could be made it is more important to pray for those with whom we disagree, if for nothing else than their enlightenment to our point of view. After all, “With God, all things are possible.”

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