Lent is about owning up to your shortcomings in your relationship with God. Prayer is a major shortfall I have, and I believe it is for many others. It’s not that I don’t pray. I pray every day. It’s the quality and purpose of the prayer that is found lacking. My prayer is much closer to punching the time clock than having a real conversation with God.
A quick search of any Christian Bookstore will produce a mind bending amount of information on the subject. I could not decide where to start. Thankfully God delivered to me the prayers of General George S Patton from World War II. This is not a traditional prayer, but I think there are lessons to be learned from it.
To understand the prayer listed below, the stage must first be set. Patton has been on a historic tear through the Germans and military history. His Cavalry has pushed the Axis from Africa and Italy, and up to now has been tearing through Europe to finish off the War. He has been incredibly successful. In fact, the only two things that have been able to stop him are unfortunate politically driven orders from his superiors to halt and a brutal winter storm.
Making matters much worse, Hitler has just shocked the Allied troops with s surprise counter offensive know as “The Battle of the Bulge”, and the only Army units left holding their original position is the 101st Airborne at the Belgian city of Bastogne. The “Screaming Eagles” are being punished by the German Forces and a blizzard has frozen all efforts to resupply and reinforce them.
Patton wants back in this fight to both rescue the 101st and to regain the offensive towards Berlin. Frustrated and Impatient, the General enters the chapel and offers the following prayer:
“ For three years my chaplains have been telling me that this is a religious war. This, they tell me is the Crusades all over again, except that we’re riding tanks instead of chargers. They insist that we are here to annihilate the Germans and the godless Hitler so that religious freedom may return to Europe. Up until nowI have gone along with them,for You have given us your unreserved cooperation. Clear skies and calm sea in Africa made the landings highly successful and helped us to eliminate Rommel. Sicily was comparitely easy and You supplied excellent for the armored dash across France, the greatest military victory that You have thus far allowed me. You have often given me excellent guidance in difficult command situations and You have led the German units into traps that made their elimination fairly simple.”
“But now You’ve changed horses midstream. You seem have given von Rundstedt every break in the book , and frankly, he’s beating the hell out of us. My army is neither trained nor equipped for winter warfare. And as You know, this weather is more suitable for Eskimos than for southern cavalrymen.”
“But now Sir, I can’t help but feel that I have offended you in some wat. That suddenly You have lost all sympathy for our cause. That You are throwing in with von Rundstedt and his paper hanging god (referring to Hitler) You know without me telling You that our situation is desperate. Sure, I can telly staff that everything is going accirding to plan, but there’s no use in telling YOu that my 101st Airborne is holding out against trememdous od in Bastogne , and that this continual storm is making it impossible.
“Damn it, Sir, I can’t fight a shadow. Without Your cooperation from a weather standpoint, I am deprived of accurate disposition of the German armies and how in the hell can I be intelligent in my attach? All of this probably sounds unreasonable to You, but I have lost all patience with your chaplains who insist that this is a typical Ardennes winter, and that I must have faith>”
“Faith and patience be damned! You have just got to make up Your mind whose side You are on. You must come to my assistance, so that I may dispatch the entire German Army as a birthday present to Your Prince of Peace. “
“Sir, I have never been an unreasonable man; I am not going to ask You to do the impossible. I do not even insist up on a miracle, for all I request is four days of clear weather”
“Give me four days so that my planes can fly, so that my fighter bombers can bomb and strafe, so that my reconnaissance may pic our targets for my magnificent artillery. Give me four days of sunshine to dry this blasted mud, so that my tanks roll, so that ammunition and rations may be taken to my hungry ill-equipped infantry. I need these four days to send von Rundstedt and his godless army to their Valhalla. I am sick of this unnecessary butchering of American youth, and in exchange for four days of fighting weather, I will deliver You enough Krauts to keep Your bookkeepers month behind in their work.”
What can we learn from Patton? Does he follow a proper format of prayer? No. Does he even use proper language for speaking to God. No, but God knows a soldier’s mouth and he probably gave him a pass.
- He shows great respect to God. Patton is as famous for his ego as he is for his military prowess. However, you can tell from his words that Patton knows who is the ranking officer in this conversation.
- He states gratitude for all that God has given him up to this point. He knows that things could have been much worse for his army and thanks God for his assistance thus far.
- He tells God exactly what is bothering him. Patton does not hint to God what he wants or how he feels. He is raw and real with God, angry at the situation and that he feels that God has forsaken him. He asks God which side He is on. He is not disrespecting God. He is calling out to God for help. There is a strong similarity to Psalm 13 (How long O Lord will my enemy be exalted over me…).
Interestingly enough, God does not answer Patton’s prayer in the method that Patton has requested. The storm rages on. However, this storm that was punishing the American troops ends up being Germany’s undoing. The German Army decides to press their advantage in the blizzard. This decision turns out to be poor strategy as the soldiers and equipment bog down in the field of fire and become easy targets for the Americans. Bastogne marks the end of the Battle of the Bulge and the beginning of the final stage of WWII.
The power of the chain of events is not lost on General Patton. He returns to the same chapel as his previous prayer and again reaches out to God humbly praying:
“Sir, this is Patton again and I beg to report complete progress. Sir, it seems to me that You have been much better informed on the situation than I was , because it was that awful weather which I cursed you so much which made it possible for the German Army to commit suicide. That, Sir, was a brilliant military move, and I bow humbly to Your supreme genius”
Once again, Patton humbles himself before God. He acknowledges that God had this situation in His control all the time. The great human tactician admits that the Great Heavenly Tactician had never left them at all. That it was all preparation for the victory. In all his ego and bluster, Patton never lost sight of who was in charge of the entire situation.
We can come to God shaking our fist stating we don’t understand and we feel alone and left behind. We can be raw and real. Sometimes I envision God bored listening to all our formatted and rote prayer. The leaning forward on His throne intently when He hears the pained raw prayer of one of his humble believers stomping their feet and shouting to heaven. “Where are you God???” God wants that kind of authentic relationship with us.