…pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 The Message

The very first prayer I remember was for “our soldiers and sailors overseas.” I was so young I didn’t know what the words meant. I knew who soldiers and sailors were; we saw people in uniform everywhere during World War II. But what was “overseas?” And why was I praying for it?

I wasn’t much older before I knew: the victory celebrations at the end of the war; my mother hanging a daisy chain around the neck of her Winston Churchill toby jug.

Our generation grew up steeped in patriotism.

We stand on the verge of 4th of July—yet another holiday made strange by this strangest of all years. No rodeos. No fireworks. No parades. Far worse: our nation struggles to find footing in a time as threatening and divisive as the Civil War.

My heart is deeply grieved; I wonder if the land I love will even survive.

Then I remember my history.

In November 1776, five months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our newly-fledged nation was dying. Routed at the Battle of Brooklyn, chased out of New York City, hounded through Westchester County like the green troops they were, Washington and his ragged army fled south through New Jersey.

Writes historian David McCullough (in “1776”), “Possibly 6000 were fit for duty. Hundreds were sick and suffering from the cold. …more and more of the local citizenry were signing the British proclamation (of surrender and amnesty.) Congress had fled. Two former members of Congress…had gone over to the enemy. By all reasonable signs, the war was over and the Americans had lost.”

“These are the times,” famously wrote Thomas Paine, “that try mens’ souls.”

And yet. Somehow George Washington found the courage and determination to rally his troops on Christmas night for one last desperate attempt at the Hessian mercenaries in Trenton. They won that battle and the long war which followed, sacrificing everything to create the nation we celebrate today.

I cannot believe their struggle was in vain. I cannot believe that He Who enabled us to survive so far would let our nation die now.

I challenge us to pray for each other, so we can live together whole and healed—even those who offend us, as Jesus commanded (Matthew 5:43 ff.) Then let’s commit to pray for our nation. Daily.

And see what happens.

FATHER GOD: Your Word says our prayers are powerful. May it be so. Help us. Give us wisdom and courage for this dark hour. Amen.

First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” Sunday June 28, 2020.