Prayer for victory in war

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I ran across this article in the LA Times about a prayer that General Patton asked his chaplain to come up with. The prayer asked God to help give Patton favorable weather during the waning months of World War II, just prior to the Battle of the Bulge. The prayer that the chaplain came up with was this:

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
The article points out,
Throughout history, soldiers have called upon their gods for protection and victory over their enemies. But Patton's now legendary prayer was extraordinary in its presumption and audacity, said Hymel. "There were four other American commanders in the European Theater during that time, and none of them were asking God to fix the weather."
I am reminded of Mark Twain's famous "War Prayer" story, a brilliant anti-war spoof of the very idea of praying for God to help "our" side win. (If anyone is not familiar with this short work of Twain's, I highly recommend it.)

If one assumes that God can control the weather to enable one's own side to win in battle, then the inevitable question is why God is limited to working his magic in that way. After all, why was the horror of World War II, with its millions of senseless deaths, even necessary in first place if a simple prayer to God could have fixed it. If God can determine the fate of battles by clearing up the skies, then surely God could have prevented Hitler from ever taking power, and surely God could have prevented massive horror of the Holocaust.

It is interesting how divine intervention, supposedly a manifestation of God's omnipotence, is actually conceived in rather limited terms. Why appeal to God to help fix the mess that an omnipotent God could have prevented in the first place?

1 comments:

Tom said...

I understand you can generalize Americans and Canadians in some aspects to be culturally alike. Especially Anglo-Canadians. Especially dialect wise. Religion is not this though. You can't generalize Canadians to say they are over reporting to be more religious though. 17% of Canadians say they are Atheist and it is probably true. There is no question that Americans are less Atheist on average - but not as low as the Christians would like for you to believe.

Canada is more religiously liberal which if anything shows they acquired some traits from Britain that Americans didn't due to later colonization. It is the same with Australia and perhaps the West Indies too.

The sense of guilt is why an American wouldn't tell you they are Atheist and it is why few of our politicians are openly Athiest or Agnostic. Or for that matter gay too since the religion folks don't like it.

I'm not sure Europeans think religion is a bad thing. They just don't think it should be used as grounds to judge policy. It is outdated in a way.