Pray for the Troops A Seven-Day Devotional The life of a young man or woman is forever changed when they sign the dotted line contractually binding them to their enlistment or commission in the United States Armed Forces. That decision can bring exhilaration, fear, excitement, anxiety and a host of many other emotions however, the emotions that surpass trepidations are ones of pride, loyalty, sacrifice, patriotism, honor, and courage, to name a few. The moment when the individual steps into the uniform for the first time, and views and salutes the American flag, is forever a life changing and heart transformation event. Whether their initial contract binds them to Active Duty service or as a Reservist, whether a military member is relatively new in their role, and in their career or whether they’re a seasoned veteran having spent many years serving and leading in service to their subordinates and our great nation, structural elements and foundational duties and sacrifices do not change. The requirements and demands of the “job”, while dynamic, are consistent throughout one’s career. In fact, the only constant is the dynamic change as the day’s duties unfold. The “plan” is discussed during the morning hours and duties are assigned accordingly only to be sidetracked or overcome by other events. “Semper Gumby” is a fun take on the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fidelis”, or Always Faithful. “Semper Gumby” reminds military members to always be flexible, and that the focus of the mission can change at any second and they’re to adapt, improvise and overcome. Though the schedule is often fluid, there exists concrete infrastructural attributes of chain of command, expectations, and tradition, and they are deeply rooted into the fabric of Unites States Service Members. These concepts can be hard to wrap your arms around, if you’ve not had the opportunity to have “walked the walk.” How are we, as spouses, family members, patriots and supporters to pray for those in uniform? Why is prayer an important daily attribute that can help to shape and care for those that volunteer to be deployed in harm’s way? The Bible has many verses that provide guidance and comfort for how and why we’re to pray, here are two of them: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV) The above verse reminds us that we’re not to worry, that we’re to give everything to God in all circumstances and that our anxiety and worrying are fruitless. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 (ESV) Jesus compels us to ask with a pure and expectant heart and to pray with an understanding that we’ll receive what we’re asking for in prayer. Our military is in a constant state of readiness, or preparing for “being ready” to deploy Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, or Coast Guard globally, to any place, and at any time. Regardless of where they are in the deployment cycle, understand that every day, every exercise, every task is in direct support of the readiness and operational missions. That is their role and that’s how they conduct their daily planning and activities. The best way to pray for our troops, all troops, whether or not they’re in harm’s way, or are supporting the mission from home, is to do so with intentional deliberation in a sage and forthright manner. For you, this might include a prayer room, or a quiet place where you go to pray, or simply during your morning commute as you turn down the radio and seek to spend some time with the Lord during your drive. However you have developed your spiritual disciplines, I encourage you to spend a few minutes preparing your heart and then intentionally praying for those, and those who support those, who put on the uniform every day. For specific areas of prayer, if not focusing your prayer for a single person or family, you may want to focus your prayer on an age or rank demographic (young, intermediate or seasoned service members), or on a particular unit or a branch of service in general. Pray for their preparation and training, the success of their evolution or mission, and their safe passage to and from their areas of responsibility. The following is a seven day devotional that can be utilized as a guide: Day 1 Focus: Preparation — Military Member “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Proverbs 24:27 ESV In this day-and-age of fluid and dynamic work and home environments, we are increasingly aware that “the only constant is change.” As a child growing up, your family members, parents/guardians, teachers and mentors around you have taught you some things along the way for how to be a responsible member of society when you step foot away from home for the first time. For our military members, basic training is the conduit that shapes the person and prepares them for their military service. Preparation teaches our military the elements of what it takes to become equipped in order to go forward and complete a mission. Without proper preparation, the mission outcome could be detrimental. Think about it: would you drive your car without the proper training and preparation? If you did not receive any preparation, the truth is that you most likely could mechanically operate the vehicle, but to what success? The apostle, Paul says: “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:11-14 (ESV) Preparation is a key element to the success of any mission. Whether or not our military members are in an operational environment, an operational support role, or engaged in the deployment cycle, they are always preparing. They are preparing for the next task, the next mission, the next deployment. Pray for them today. Heavenly Father, God. As our warriors prepare in this day, for whatever the next mission is for them, I pray that you keep watch over them. Prepare their hearts, minds and hands for the ability to focus on protecting themselves and others, so that they may complete their mission safely and return home with honor. In Jesus’ holy name I pray, amen. Day 2 Focus: Preparation — Spouse/Family “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28 (ESV) We think about preparation being only for the military member as they prepare for their next mission, whether they’re engaged in a training cycle, or a physical fitness regiment, we know that they are continuously preparing for the next stages in fulfillment of their orders. But we often forget, that the military member wouldn’t be successful in their preparation without the steadfast and unwavering support of their family. Military spouses are the unsung heroes of our armed forces. If there are children in the home, we know that their role, at times, are akin to single parenthood. They’re responsible for holding down the fort at home, while their spouse is deployed. Strangely enough, if things can go wrong, they do go wrong while the military spouse is deployed! The water pipes burst or the car breaks down. The child becomes ill and in need of special testing. A tree falls on the roof of the home during a storm. The family pet contracts a rare disease. All of these things, which are normal family undertakings at some point in their lives, tend to occur all at once and just-in-time for the spouse to be deployed. The spouse at home is left alone, having to deal with all of life’s struggles, seemingly alone. If they have prepared properly, powers-of-attorney have been signed and executed, in addition to the myriad of other preparatory elements. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Hebrews 11:7 (ESV) As we consider praying for the preparation of our military, whether for an individual, a particular unit, or a branch of service; I encourage you to also consider praying for the preparation of the unsung heroes, the military spouse. Dear Lord, I pray that as you prepare the hands, hearts and minds of our military members for their mission, that you also prepare the household for the absence of the military member. Lord be with the spouse, the children, and the supporting members of the family so that they are a strong and fortified unit of their own as they endure the hardships of their spouse being away on deployment, potentially in harm’s way. Lord give the spouse the strength to endure the illness of children, household hardships or loneliness struggles during the time that their spouse is away. Lord I pray that the spouse leans into you, during this time so that you may keep them and guide them towards a continued and rejoicing life in you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. Day 3 Focus: Deployment — Military Member “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) The day is upon us. The day that all of the planning and preparation have called for. This is the day that we step onto the plane, or we cast off all lines to get the ship underway embarking on the beginning stages of the mission. Be at ease, rely on the training, this is what we’ve been mentally and physically preparing to do. Time to operate! As the beginning stages of the deployment are underway, the troops are anxious and excited. Some may be sad while others are exhilarated and thrive in the high optempo environment. Within these first few days of the deployment, as they transit to and arrive “on station”, God offers His kind and gentle support during this season. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) The day-counter has begun that will remind us on a regular basis how many days there are until our service member returns home to us safely. God willing. As we at home settle into our new routine, with the absence of our spouse, or our son or daughter, or as we come alongside our friends that are enduring this time, we’re to lean into the body of Christ and trust in His will in all things, and to rest in that as we go about our daily activities. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV) Father, God: I pray for our troops as they transition to their overseas environment. I take solace in the fact that you are with them, and that you are guiding the decisions of the leadership. Lord I pray that they lean into and hear your still small voice of direction, and allow for your guidance in the strategic decision making and care for each other, as they trudge forward to do the “hard job”, the mission, that protects me and keeps my country’s traditions and foundational morals and values sound. Protect them O Lord, and be with them always, until their return. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. Day 4 Focus: Deployment — Family/Home Support “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) There are “trimesters” to military deployments, similar to how we track growth, and events on the calendar as with gestation and human pregnancy. At the end of the third trimester, the process is finished and we’re left to enjoy the fruits of our labor. With deployed family members, the “stages” of the deployment timeframe can be tracked according to the calendar, and there are emotions and events that correspond with each. First trimester: feelings of exhilaration are abound as the day of your spouse leaving on deployment has finally arrived! The next few months will be an adjustment to the new schedule, taking care of the children, ensuring they get to little league or dance practice. Carve out time to meet with friends, perhaps take up a new healthy hobby. This is a time for perseverance for the “home-base” of support. Second trimester: The strong spouse, often becomes despondent and is filled with doubt and desperation during this time period. They miss their spouse, there is no end in sight to the seemingly insurmountable number of days between now and when their spouse returns. Hopelessness can set in. Couple this with some tragic events such as a water leak, the car breaking down, or a problem with the insurance and the burden of carrying everything alone, can become daunting. Third trimester: Over the hump! On the downward slide! Feelings of excitement and preparation, along with anxiety can accompany this period. How will they behave when they see each other? Will the spouse be angry at the new haircut or the new paint in the bedroom? Nervousness, doubt, anxiousness, and excitement are all bundled into the days leading up to the homecoming. Dear Father God, I pray that during each stage that you are the focus of the family. That all cares be given unto you so that all burdens and worries can be cast aside and that families flourish during times of strife, and their faith in you continues to grow as a result of your abundant and everlasting love. Be with them always, through each stage of the deployment as each stage brings forth its own sets of challenges. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen. Day 5 Focus: Deployment — Troops Looking for the Home Stretch “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. ...” James 1:12-18 (ESV) It is during the last phases of deployment that the complacency, anxiety, and perfunctory numbness can set in for the troops. During this time, our troops are watching the calendar as well (or not) while engaging in what can be considered mundane tasks that are performed without feeling or consistency. The mantra “remember your training” is waning and the unit is in the throes of a continued haze of intermingled work days. “Time off” provides no respite as they’re still bound to the base, having to respond to emergencies, having to carry their weapons and perhaps run to the bunker if indirect fire is a threat to their area. Another day with a couple hundred of their closest friends, clogging the lines to chow, lugging their weapon around, trying to watch a movie or go to the gym on their “holiday routine” (holiday for others, routine for them). The hypersensitivity and hyper-vigilant operations tempo are the new norm, and no amount of caffeine can stimulate the “rush” that they experienced during the first few months on station. They now live and operate in a mode where loud weapons releases in the middle of the night are commonplace. When the siren goes off, they may grab their gear on the way to the bunker, they may not, or they may not even get up to go to the bunker for another alarm at all. What’s the point? Depression can set in and this is a critical time and area of prayer for our troops that are deployed in harm’s way. Dear Heavenly Father…we raise up our troops during this critical stage of their deployment. We pray that they remain steadfast in their mission and that they rely on you and the fundamental tenements of their job. I pray a hedge of protection against complacency, that they may remain alert and vigilant in their roles. Protect them Oh Lord, as they fight not only the physical enemy, but the spiritual enemy including the enemy of self which inaugurates depression, lethargy and complacency. Day 6 Focus: Homecoming — Family and Service Member “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (ESV) The countdown is over, the day is here! Service members wake up (if they’ve slept at all) to a day filled with hope and wonderment, a day that they’ve been longing for ever since they left home: the day of homecoming. Most of the time, this occurs with the accompaniment of a great fanfare. There are bands, flowers, news crews, the clapping of hands, freshly dressed families that all await the arrival of their service member with nervous excitement! That feeling of exhilaration upon first setting eyes on their loved ones as they step off the plane, or wave from the ship is an irreplaceable feeling of gratitude filled with patriotism and pride. At times, however, a member is returning home without the full complement of their unit. This can be accompanied by mixed emotions as a bittersweet embrace with loved ones. While thankful to be home safe, the service member might have anxiety and sadness due to lost comrades-in-arms, and return home with a heavy heart. What we can do for them, in those moments is be present, listen when required, offer two shoulders and two ears to allow for the outpouring of strife to occur. This is the beginning of a process that can allow for healing and growth to begin. Heavenly Father God, I pray that as our service members return home to their families, that they do so with a thankful heart. That you’re able to pierce through the emotional strife and continue to love and care and guide the service members as they reintegrate with their families. Though the experiences that they’ve endured, we rest in your grace as the One True God that provides an abundance of love and mercy to those that respond to your call. Be with them Oh Lord, as they return home to the safe arms of their loved ones. In Jesus’ holy name I pray, amen. Day 7 Focus: Family Unit Reintegration “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12 Reintegration occurs on many fronts. For the spouse that’s been holding down the fort at home, to the child(ren) that’s been living with one parent for the past several months, to the military member that’s been living with a couple hundred of their closest friends for quite some time. The excitement of being back home gives way to stressful circumstances as married couples learn how to “do life” together again. This may include the service member becoming anxious as they’ve been operating in an unsafe environment and has learned to flourish on very little sleep and thrive on energy drinks. After they’ve cleaned and organized the entire house and there’s nothing left to do, anxiety can set in. They may feel useless as the “mission” is over and their participation is no longer meaningful. When this occurs, they try to fill the adrenalin and anxiety hole with other things. For some this is alcohol, which leads to relational problems. For others this is anger which leads to relational problems. As you can see, this is a volatile time for families as they discover that the elements of patience and grace are in great demand. Pray that they intentionally lean into the Lord, in order to fill their gaps. Pray for patience and understanding of the spouse and that they are involved with a loving and kind church family that can come alongside them during their time of reintegration into the home life. Where it is safe for the Sergeant to become Daddy or Mommy again, and the smile and joy returns as the member is home, and present in the lives of his or her family. Dear Lord, thank you so much for the safe return of the service members. I pray that when their elation subsides, that they are intentional in leaning into You father God and that they can find solace and refuge in your arms. I pray that their mission continues and that they find peace in that mission regardless of the role that they assume. Whether it’s Daddy or Mommy, Mr. or Mrs. instead of Sergeant or Captain, I pray that they have taken the positive attributes of their experiences and can utilize them in constructive and meaningful ways as they go forward. I pray this in the holy name of Jesus. Amen. Shalom.