Prayer for The Battle

June 26, 2023

George Washington was known to be a superior athlete, and apparently, he knew it. The story is told of some of his soldiers who were playing “pitching the bar,” a game that involved seeing who could throw an iron bar the farthest across the lawn. Colonel Washington asked how to play, and then, smiling, threw the bar very far beyond what the other men had accomplished. Afterward, he pleasantly observed, “When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I’ll try again.” He was also known for having a good sense of humor.

In May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress requested George Washington to command the ragtag colonial militias. Washington immediately began to instill in the troops an absolute faith in God. Washington understood that his only hope for success against the greatest army ever organized in human history was to lay an unquestioned conviction in his army’s hearts and daily actions that what they accomplished for God and under God’s protection. Washington ordered that each day begins with prayer, led by his officers. Soldiers were ordered to be in attendance unless their duties required them to be somewhere else. General Washington continually pursued to instill in his army faith and reverence to God.

This conviction in the power of prayer would affect all aspects of our nation’s military in the centuries to come. In The First Principles of the Continental Navy by John Adams, 1775, reaffirmed by U.S. Congress in 1956, and U.S. Air Force in 1997 we read, “Second Principle: The Commanders of the ships of the Thirteen United Colonies are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent it.”

After the successful campaign following Valley Forge in 1778, George Washington stated, “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”

In 1796 President Thomas Jefferson wrote, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?

The power of prayer was studied thoroughly during WWII. George Marshall, author of “The Marshall Plan” to rebuild Europe said, “I look upon the spiritual life of the soldier as even more important than his physical equipment… the soldier’s heart, the soldier’s spirit, the soldier’s soul are everything. Unless the soldier’s soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end.”

Science confirms the military necessity of prayer. The study Social Psychology in World War II Series, produced by the Social Science Research Council, was one of the largest social science research projects in history. Volume II, The American Soldier, Combat and the Aftermath, (Princeton University Press, 1949), reported data on the importance of prayer to officers and enlisted infantrymen. Prayer was selected most frequently as the soldier’s source of combat motivation. The motivation of prayer was selected over the next highest categories of “Thinking that you couldn’t let the other man down,” and “thinking that you had to finish the job in over to get home again.” Not only did enlisted infantrymen mention prayers more often than any other item as helping a lot, but length of combat had no effect on the frequency of responses.

One of my sons had a personal experience with the power of prayer. He was on one of the most intensive training missions the army has. He and his crew had a goal to avoid being caught by the military police. They have lived on berries and plants. Ten days in, they were exhausted and couldn’t go on. The MP’s had been on their trail all day and would soon find them. My son started praying and reading scripture. Suddenly, he felt the power of the Holy Spirit dwell within him. Reinvigorated, he was able to inspire his unit, and off they go to complete their mission.

Because of the great sacrifice of our military men and women, we are able to enjoy living lives of freedom never enjoyed by humanity in world history. Life is hard, and it is not fair. We will have to fight battles of a different sort in our land of freedom. When you are fighting the battles of life do not forget your greatest gift, prayer! (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see,