The “Prayers of the People” serve as a cornerstone of Christian liturgy, a communal invocation that brings us together in shared hope, grief, and praise. Various groups often find their names mentioned—such as the poor, the sick, and those in authority—reflecting a church community’s concerns and responsibilities. However, there is often a glaring omission in some congregations: our active-duty military personnel and veterans. This absence is a theological oversight that demands our careful consideration, especially given that these men and women safeguard the very freedoms allowing us to worship openly.
Not a Universal Oversight
Before diving into the theological implications of this absence, it’s worth noting that many churches do, in fact, include active-duty military and veterans in their “Prayers of the People.” Furthermore, a significant number of congregations even go beyond this by praying for their own members who are currently serving or deployed. Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is to address those churches where this meaningful inclusion is missing.
The Weight of Absence: More Than an Oversight
Excluding active-duty military and veterans from our communal prayers reveals a significant blind spot in our collective spiritual conscience. These men and women have committed their lives to defending freedoms that form the bedrock of our society, including our religious freedoms. It’s essential to recognize that this exclusion reflects not just upon the church’s stance on community and inclusivity but also its commitment to its role as a moral and pastoral guide.
Theological Grounds for Inclusion
Scripture provides a basis for including military personnel and veterans in our prayers. For instance, the Apostle Paul urges us to pray “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:2). This directive could be interpreted to include those who serve in the military, helping maintain the societal peace that allows for religious practice.
The Ripple Effects of Exclusion
Not including active-duty military and veterans in the “Prayers of the People” has several negative repercussions:
- Undermining the Theology of Community: The church proclaims itself a sanctuary for all, yet by excluding certain groups, it contradicts this message.
- Diminishing the Church’s Role as a Moral Compass: The absence suggests that the church is uninterested in the ethical complexities facing military personnel, which undermines its broader ethical role.
- Neglecting Pastoral Duty: The unique emotional and spiritual needs of military personnel and veterans often go unaddressed, marking a failure in pastoral care.
- Alienating Current and Potential Members: Individuals within the congregation who are directly connected to military service can feel overlooked and marginalized, affecting church growth and community cohesion.
- Missing an Educational Moment: A prayer can serve as an entry point for addressing more complex issues related to military service, such as ethics, peace, and justice, from a faith-based perspective.
- Compromising Social Witness: By failing to include military personnel and veterans in its prayers, the church also compromises its broader social witness, causing society at large to question who merits intercessory prayers and who does not.
A Call for Wholeness in Prayer
Omitting active-duty military and veterans from “The Prayers of the People” has consequences that reach far beyond the walls of the church. This absence not only impacts those who are left out but also shapes the community’s theological health and social witness. As we seek to be more like the Jesus who embraced those on the margins, may we remember to include those who are often unseen and unheard in our prayers but might be facing life or death as we pray.