Thoughts on Prayer While My Husband is at War

My mother-in-law invited me to go with her and some of her church friends to an apple orchard today. We carpooled together and the woman sitting next to me has a husband who used to be in the Marines. We got to talking about prayer. Then she said something that really hurt me.

"My parents prayed for my husband's unit every day he was deployed. Not a single soldier in the unit died. Then a week after they got back, two soldiers got killed." 

And she goes on to talk about the power of prayer. As I'm typing this, I'm even getting tears in my eyes again. I wanted to say "But I've been praying every day too." And men in James's unit have still died, and it's been heartbreaking. Thank goodness that I was wearing big tinted sunglasses. I didn't say anything. The other lady in the car mentioned how amazing that was. I noticed that my mother-in-law didn't say anything either.

What part of me wishes I had asked.. Is that supposed to be a good ending to the story? Two soldiers died. What exactly is being implied here? Do you think no one was praying for them? Now these were really sweet Christian ladies.. Lord knows we aren't perfect. I know that I'm certainly not. I just don't think they had totally thought through what they were saying, let alone what they were saying to me and my MIL.. with James still deployed.

Oh goodness, novels have been written about "the power of prayer." My favorite book of the deployment is "The Power of a Praying Wife." There are amazing stories about miracles that have happened because someone prayed. But I think we need to be really careful about how we tell these stories. There's part of me that really wishes that I had said something so that she can stop telling that story before she tells it to someone that has lost someone close. Or at least change the way she tells it.

I talked to my mom about this and she said that she felt a similar sadness when she heard a friend talk about how God healed someone from a life-threatening sickness because of everyone that prayed. She wanted to say "But my friend with cancer is probably going to die soon.. and I've been praying for her too." And so was I. Along with probably hundreds of people networked through the church. She still passed away last year.

I love the song that goes:

You give and take away, 
you give and take away,
my heart will chose to say
Lord blessed be your name. 

Everything that I own is God's. That's hard to swallow sometimes. That means that his plan could be to take something away at any moment and it might not make sense to me why. That means that he could chose to take my marriage away. I pray for James every day, multiple times a day. I hope that God will protect him. But I also realize that he's at war, doing one of the most dangerous jobs possible. When I kissed him goodbye, I had to accept that there's a chance that it could be our last. 

I think people misunderstand what the phrase "Power of Prayer" means. The power does not lie with the person doing the praying. And I think we come dangerously close to implying that sometimes when God grants us what we ask for. 

I still can't really wrap my mind around prayer. I remember asking my parents when I was a kid "If God already knows everything and knows what we want, then why do we have to pray it?" And I feel like I still really don't know the answer. It's something that I wish I could logically understand. Maybe it's less about asking Him for what we want and more about the act of humbly spilling out our hearts to Him, the Savior who loves us. 

So I'm going to continue to pray for James and his men and the rest of his unit. And when/if he gets home safely, I'm going to thank God for that. But I'm not going to say later "I prayed for James every day and so God protected him and he got home safely!" I'm just going to give all the praise to God for giving my husband back to me. 

Comments

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    1. (Wanted to rephrase...) Love your heart, sister... so much. My husband is just now readying to deploy (first time), but I've found myself in these situations via non-military-related conversations as well. My father-in-law died of cancer a couple of years ago (age 50), and it sure wasn't due to lack of prayer on my part, or sincerity of heart while praying - God knows. I've struggled with infertility and while it hasn't been corrected yet, it sure isn't because I haven't prayed and wept and asked God to heal me. He keeps pointing me to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. In both of these circumstances there were/have been well-meaning believers who suggested that maybe it was punishment for something. It is implied that, "God is able to heal, so you must not be doing something right." Prayer is powerful, and I know with all my heart that God hears us whenever we pray. But sometimes He doesn't answer in the way that we would like, and I believe He does so with the same heart and the same tears in His eyes as were there when He "turned away" from Jesus while on the cross. I have to believe it's because He has a perfect plan and a greater purpose.

      I find comfort (peace, at least) in the verses of that song as well, and sometimes I wonder if my heart truly knows what it's asking when I sing, "Bring me everything that brings You glory... and I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that's what it takes to praise you... Jesus, bring the rain." I think ahead to the future and try to prepare myself for what's to come (whatever that may be), but as a dear friend of mine likes to say, "we don't have grace for the 'what if's." IF that should happen, or that time should come, we will find we have the grace that we need for that time, in that time.

      Hugs and much love to you, girl. <3

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    2. Janelle, thanks so much for sharing your heart! This post was one of these emotional "I'm upset and I need to write about it" moments and I almost didn't post it.. but reading what you wrote made me glad that I did. Sending hugs and love back your way! -A.

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  2. It is so hard, isn't it, when people just don't understand what they are saying and how it can hurt. I think you have an excellent perspective. I am happy to have found your blog, and thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. Tia, thank you! I'm glad you found me too. :)

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