Monday, September 17, 2007

Can Christians Legitimately Pray for Victory in War?

Mitch Lewis, a US Army chaplain writes:

I don’t see why not. Like squabbling children who cry out “Dad” or “Mom,” we’ll both take our cases before the Lord. In God’s wisdom, mercy and love, God will settle the matter as God sees fit.

The fact that we are praying for success in an enterprise that costs lives shouldn’t stop us from praying for its success. As I wrote in
Like David, “How can I participate in something that I cannot ask God to bless?”

So, I’ll pray today for the Iraqi and coalition forces that are fighting on behalf of peace in Iraq. Like others, I’ll be praying for peace and protection of the innocent. I’ll also pray for victory in tactical operations and success in the larger campaign. I’ll not only pray for the safety of our Soldiers and Marines, I’ll pray for the accomplishment of their mission. I’ll not only pray for the healing of minds, bodies and communities, but – like Origen – I’ll pray that “whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed!”

What do you think? Can a Christian pray for victory?


Art said...

"fighting for peace"?


Anonymous said...


Or, are you just limited by your own vision and understanding?

To answer the original question of "Can Christians legitimately pray for victory in war", I state without any reservations: yes!


RERC said...

When I consider this question I always think about that Thomas Merton prayer that has the line, "the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so."

For me prayer in war is the same as other prayer: asking that above all God's will be done.

Dan Trabue said...

Christians - or anyone - can pray for anything. They can pray that their enemies suffer horrible deaths along with their children.

That wouldn't, of course, make such prayers godly, moral or helpful, but we can and do pray thusly.

I'm fine with the notion of praying that the fighting come to an end, that all the innocents be protected, that justice will out, that the terrorists would stop terrorizing.

I fine it offensive in the extreme to pray that "we get all the bad guys and kill 'em." Not that anyone is praying thusly, but anything that borders on the suggestion that "God, we know you're on our side and want you to help us kill or otherwise stop those who are opposed to you..."

As to the "fighting for peace" line, I like that ol' saying (cleaned up here), "Killing for peace is like fornicating for virginity..."

Yes, we as Christians are to stand up to evil actions, but the Bible gives us pretty straightforward (if not always clear) directions on that: we are to overcome evil with good.

Tom Jackson said...

"How can I participate in something that I cannot ask God to bless?"

It's a good question, but I think he's ignoring the possibility that the answer is "You can't."

John Wilks said...

This is tough for me because I have the utmost respect for those willing to put their lives on the line for their beliefs- something military personnel and their families do daily.

I am committed to praying for peace and justice and mercy on God's terms rather than praying for victory. If the US Military is used by God, fine. If God acts in other ways, fine. That's not for me to decide.

And while I pray for our military- especially those whom I know by name- I also pray for the enemy and I encourage my congregation to do likewise. (Yeah- that goes over like a lead balloon here in Texas.) Jesus commanded us to love our enemies- and that includes prayer.

And while I won't judge another Christian for serving in the military, I myself couldn't do it because I don't know how to love my enemy while shooting at them. Perhaps I'm being too literal and too simplistic w/ Jesus' words. But that's where I'm at today.

Jody said...


JD said...

To simply answer the questions posed, yes and yes.

The bigger discussion is pacifism vs. Just War Theory. No matter what side you choose and the resons for doing so, it is not a simple yes or no question.


John said...

The Bible is a bit mixed on the subject. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, not against them. Nevertheless, Psalms is filled with imprecatory prayers. We must find a way to theologically accomodate these mixed messages.

One thing is a bit more clear: praying against your enemies impairs Just War Theory, which holds that war is a necessary evil. If we pray for the defeat of our enemies, we are suggesting that God has not only not condemned the war, but has blessed it. That is not Just War, but Crusader thinking.

JD said...

I know this is semantics, but you can pray for victory without praying for the defeat of your enemy.

Should we think that we are destined to win? No. Should we pray to win? Why not?

I am not a war monger? No, just a realist.


Dan Trabue said...

"Should we pray to win? Why not?"

Well, for starters, what if the war was an unjust horrible war in the first place? I'd hope that if I were a German in 1940, that I'd be praying for the madness to stop and certainly not that Germany would win.

Again, I'm all for praying for the safety of my homeland, for an end to oppression and violence, for an end to violent and oppressive leaders. But praying for "victory" in a questionably moral war, I'd think not.

And, at least for me, most modern wars are questionably moral - by the very nature of modern war.

I disagree with Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) on many things, but I certainly agree with this quote - about the Iraq Invasion, but speaking of a greater criticism:

There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a "just war."

JD said...


I think there are a few assumptions that people are making about my statements.

I am no pacifist, by any means, but I also don't want things, in any war, to be carried further than the necessary end, even if it was necessay to begin with.

Secondly, I am not really talking about the Iraq war. That is more politicized than anything in current history and I do not want to bring politics into a religious discussion.

My comments about praying for victory are more toward the defeat of evil and Satan. War, in and of itself, is evil. Whether for the defense of a nation, or a people, it is still a bad thing. If we have to protect ourselves due to a real or perceived threat, then we must. But I also pray it end as soon as possible.

America is where it is right now because we have forgotten our Christian heritage, the Mayflower Compact, when the pilgrims first settled here.

Things not going well for America was predicted in Leviticus 26 for anyone that calls themselves a nation of God, but turns away:

 14 ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments,
 15 and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,
 16 I also will do this to you:I will even appoint terror over you,...
 17 I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies.Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.

Pray for victory. Victory over death. Victory in war. Because victory brings finality and an end. Isn't that what we want?


PS: excuse the typos. This was done on my BB. :)

Dan Trabue said...

"Because victory brings finality and an end. Isn't that what we want?"

No! No! A thousand times, no! NOT if it's an unjust, oppressive war. Victory in an unjust war would be a triumph for injustice - NOT what we want.

And I'm not talking about the Iraq war specifically, either.

(And I fully understand that you're not advocating or rejoicing in war.)

Stresspenguin said...

What do you mean by victory? That's a very broad term both in general and specific cases.

I did my time as a soldier. I'm glad I never had to kill anyone. In my current understanding of my personal theology, Christians are strongest in their weakness. I feel that I would be acting contrary to the Gospel if I were to kill those whom I am supposed to love.

So if we believe that God answers prayers as indicated in, say Matthew 18.19, then a victory in war that leads to the killing of other human beings is grossly irresponsible in light the responsibility and power granted to us as shown in Matthew 18.18.

just my off-the-cuff 1/50 of a buck.

JD said...


IMHO, if it is a victory over death, evil, and Satan. Whether one feels the reasons were unjust, I would take the victory. That's probably where we will disagree, and I respect your opinion on it. I think our viewpoints may differ enough that it would be hard to come to a concensus.

(Thanks for telling me you do not think I am a war monger.)


JD said...

God said though shall not murder, not though shall not kill. It is just and right if one is defending ones self. Mind you, I could never be a soldier either.

There are many times in the Old Testament that God commands His people to go out and conquer or fight. There are also examples of the Lord fighting for His people and giving them victory, i.e. 1 Chronicles 5:18-22:

18 The sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh had forty-four thousand seven hundred and sixty valiant men, men able to bear shield and sword, to shoot with the bow, and skillful in war, who went to war. 19 They made war with the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. 20 And they were helped against them, and the Hagrites were delivered into their hand, and all who were with them, for they cried out to God in the battle. He heeded their prayer, because they put their trust in Him. 21 Then they took away their livestock—fifty thousand of their camels, two hundred and fifty thousand of their sheep, and two thousand of their donkeys—also one hundred thousand of their men; 22 for many fell dead, because the war was God’s. And they dwelt in their place until the captivity.

There are many other esamples that the Lord answered their prayers, because they put their faith in Him. Prayer for victory is not so much about beating down an enemy as much as it is trusting completely in the Lord that HIS will be done regardless for the initial reason for the war.

I have not had this conversation with Mitch, but reading his blog throughout the last year, I come to realize that he is doing his duty to God and his country. I also think that any prayer for victory from Mitch is probably less about, "Kill the arabs," and more about God's will be done during this time of war, no matter the outcome, the victory will be the Lord's if we would just put our faith in Him.


Art said...

I stand by my original comment. Disrespectfully "respectful", Annonymous Joseph seems to be the one with limited understanding here.

"Fighting for peace" is like having sex in order to preserve one's virginity... impossible.

Anonymous said...


I honestly fail to appreciate how I was "disrespectful". Was it merely because I disagreed and questioned your premise ("Imposible")? Was it because I had the temerity to question your insight and understanding? You may not have liked my question, nevertheless it was a sincere and honest one. Furthermore, I felt that it would provoke honest introspection. Over the course of time. many men have answered "impossible" to a myriad of questions and problems only to be proven wrong.
"Fighting for peace" is like having sex in order to preserve one's virginity...
Your statement makes for a clever tag line, (and even makes this author chuckle a bit) but serves as a poorly constructed argument.


Art said...

To "Joseph": That you do not see that writing, "Or, are you just limited by your own vision and understanding?" as disrespectful proves my point...