Many people were shocked by a 2007 video released recently in which US Army helicopters fired on apparently innocent Iraqi civilians. Subsequent to the video’s release, more information has become available that provides more context, but it all highlights the need to keep the military in our prayers. Having served in the military, I can say with some authority that prayer for men and women serving their countries is always needed, and never wasted. Affirmations of each individual’s ability to hear God’s direction, to be alert to danger, and to express wisdom no matter what situation arises will bless people in uniform and guide them to intelligent actions.
One of the big challenges in dealing with conflict or conditions where terrorism may be a factor is the ability to assess one’s environment with clarity, and not be tricked into misinterpreting another’s actions. In military aviation the term “situational awareness” is the degree to which an aircrew’s sense of what is happening around them is aligned with reality. No matter what the mission, the most effective crews are those that maintain their situational awareness at all times.
There are examples of this kind of awareness in the Bible. When guards came to take Jesus away to be crucified, one of the disciples took out his sword and cut off a guard’s ear. Jesus’ response? “Suffer ye this far. And he touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:51). While everyone around him may have been panicking and reacting out of fear, Jesus maintained full situational awareness that God was in control and understood the importance of acknowledging this spiritual fact. His line of communication with the one Creator was clear and open. He never lost sight of the big picture, even continuing his healing work to one who could have been considered an enemy.
War often seems to provide conditions ripe for misjudgment stemming from a loss of situational awareness. Service members are far away from home for long periods of time – in uncomfortable living quarters and removed from family, friends, and most of the elements of normal, everyday life that help balance a person’s thoughts and emotions. It’s difficult to maintain one’s sense of identity and clarity of thought.
There are, however, some ways for our prayers to support service members so they can determine which actions to take and when. One is our prayer-based conviction that each individual can be guided by God, the divine Principle, and can maintain what might be called a spiritual situational awareness. This awareness helps overrule feelings of fear or desire for revenge, which can lead to misguided actions.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote, “To be ‘with the Lord’ is to be in obedience to the law of God, to be absolutely governed by divine Love, – by Spirit, not by matter” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 14).
Rules like “not firing unless fired upon” are designed to protect both the innocent and the would-be villain. They provide guidance when the human mind is clouded by events and momentum develops, pushing individuals down the wrong path and away from their inner sense of right. Our prayers can insist that Truth is a present help for those dealing with situations that are hard to assess. Thought aligned with Truth enables one to maintain the highest sense of reality and awareness, from which to make good decisions, and it also protects people from actions that may later be deemed unwise.
Divine Principle is the little voice inside our heads that tells us the right thing to do. As God’s perfect children, each of us is naturally obedient to this voice. Voices of fear, anger, or hatred may speak to individuals under pressure, but to the degree that those individuals can turn to a sense of divine law or to divine Principle itself, they will be insulated from such temptations.
Mrs. Eddy often links divine Love with Principle, and, in the end, love for God and the man and woman He created can do much to guide people’s assessments of the conditions they face and enable them to act intelligently. This is especially true in war zones, where clear thought is essential and not always easy to maintain. So in our prayer for those in such places, we can claim their right to good judgment, leavened by God’s love.
In solidarity with them, we can let love temper our own thoughts and actions and also trust Principle to provide wise judgment in every moment. Uplifting our thought to God and trusting Him to care for members of the military and for people in the countries where they serve will do much to hasten peace in the world. It will help protect everyone involved in the conflict and provide the surest outcome for all.