Beyond the grilling and trips to the lake, Memorial Day is a holiday set aside to remember fallen soldiers—those men and women who have lost their lives in various battles. For centuries, good Jesus-loving Christians have debated the Christian’s position on war and whether or not one should serve in the military, days like this are not for such debates. Yet one thing that we can agree upon regardless of one’s position is the need for prayer in response to fallen lives in a world plagued with war because we are plagued with sin.
So I offer up these suggestions to pray for Memorial Day.
First, pray for those who have lost loved ones in combat and also more generally for those who sit with the loss of loved ones heavy on their hearts no matter the reason. Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). No matter how it occurs, death is an enemy. Yes, through Jesus, it is a defeated enemy that no longer holds us bound under its fear. What was once a powerful cause for dread, God has made a servant for his people to usher us into his presence. Yet, in the now as we wait the glorious future, death still stings. We grieve it, rightly as we should (as even Jesus grieved death in John 11 knowing he was about to raise Lazarus from the grave). So we grieve along with those who have tasted the sting.
Second, pray for an end to war through the spread of the gospel and the return of Jesus. The gospel of Jesus is good news of peace (Ephesians 6:15). We have peace with God and that is to drive us to seek peace with others. Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Yes, the government does not wield a sword in vain—it is to protect its citizens (Romans 13); but our hearts should long for the day that wars cease.
Psalm 46 speaks of the nations raging, yet God is our fortress. The day is coming in the works of the Lord when “he makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.” Even if war is sometimes necessary, no Christian should desire war. We should long for peace. Also in Matthew 5, Jesus said to pray for our enemies. These would include enemies of the state. To pray for them—that they might taste the grace and goodness of God through the gospel—is part of our prayer for peace and an end to war.
Without war there would be no Memorial Day for there would be no casualties of soldiers. The gospel creates men and women who long for peace and an end to war and death. Jesus’ return will mark the day that the true King makes his kingdom shine forever and there will be no more need for war or its weapons. To quote a song, “What a day of rejoicing that will be.”
Third, pray for President Obama, your senators and representatives, and other leaders to make wise decisions. From the news channels to Facebook, our culture shows we like to bash people who disagree with us. This is one of many places that the Bible’s take on government is countercultural. Peter wrote that we should honor our leaders (flowing from the general command to honor everyone ~ 1 Peter 2:17). He gave no qualifications. There was no statement about honoring them if you agree with their policies or honoring them if you feel they are honorable. Nope. Just honor them.
Paul wrote we are to pray for them. Paul didn’t say to pray imprecatory prayers hoping bad things would befall them. But rather pray supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings—pray for them. The purpose is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). The hope of such prayers is our peace, which would include peace for the soldiers who act upon the will of these leaders.
So this Memorial Day, whether you are remembering fallen friends and family, spending time with family at the park or the beach, or staying at home and resting—whatever it is you do with this day, remember to pray.
Father, let your comfort and grace be upon those who grieve. Protect those who serve and find themselves in danger. Bring the lasting peace that only comes from you as the great and good King and Father. Turn hearts to Jesus through your word and Spirit. And grant wisdom and your favor upon the men and women who lead in this country, that we might see days of peace as we wait for the Prince of Peace to return. Amen.