Praying Wrong

I’m not sure when the prayer request came in.  It’s probably been six months or more.  Someone mentioned that we needed to be praying for a US soldier captive in Afghanistan for over four years.  It sounded incredible – how could this be?  How could one of our soldiers be captive for four years and there not be any news coverage, no outrage, no protests?  

So we began praying in service every Sunday.  We already pray for all of the men and women who serve our country, but now we added Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by name to our prayers.  Return him home safely, Father.
It was with great joy that I heard the news Saturday night.  Double good news, actually.  Not only had Sgt. Bergdahl been released, but the Sudanese government had agreed to release Meriam, the Christian woman who had recently given birth in prison and was facing death for her Christian faith.  What wonderful news to bring to the congregation!  We celebrated both events in prayer this past Sunday, giving thanks to our God who hears and responds to his people.  
But the news has been less than satisfying in the past few days.  The Sudanese government has now declared that it won’t free Meriam, but rather will wait for a court decision on the situation.  This is an understandable turn of events.  Terrible, but understandable.  We can and will resume praying for her release; we will continue to pray for Christians around the world who suffer for their faith.  I pray that Meriam will yet be released.
But the Sgt. Bergdahl situation is more troubling.  Now it begins to be made known why more of a fuss wasn’t being made about this man.  Allegations that he deserted his post.  Allegations that he is actually a sympathizer with the Taliban.  Troubling tweets (now deleted) and public statements from his parents that certainly contribute to the impression that Bergdahl’s imprisonment might be more complicated than it originally sounded.  And of course the equally troubling news that the President of the United States may have violated the law by negotiating for the release of Bergdahl by releasing Taliban officers from Guantanamo without appropriate Congressional notification or approval.  
I find myself feeling embarrassed and awkward that I led my congregation to pray for this soldier and his release, when the entire situation continues to grow more ominous and confusing.  
Was our prayer wrong?  Is such a thing possible?
I believe that prayer can be wrong when it is intentionally against Biblical witness to the will and heart of God.  That’s a tricky line to walk at times, and we have to be careful when alleging that someone is intentionally praying in a way that offends God or disregards his Word.  I suspect that a healthy dose of grace should be the medium through which we view one another’s prayers, recognizing that we are flawed creatures and in varying levels of maturity in the Christian faith.  I would not fault a new Christian for a prayer that might go against the Word of God, but it would be a good opportunity for teaching and growth.  
But the prayers we offered for Sgt. Bergdahl weren’t against the Word of God.  We prayed for his safe release based on the information we had, which was admittedly very little.  Even still, to pray that someone be safely reunited with family and friends is not a bad thing, probably not ever.  
Am I disappointed to learn about the wider scope of this particular situation?  Certainly.  As an American I am worried about the ramifications of our President’s apparently unilateral decision.  As an American I am unhappy to think that one of our soldiers might have put his fellow soldiers at risk for him (and reports are that at least six US service personnel have died directly as a result of searching for his location over the years).  As an American, I hope that Sgt. Bergdahl will either have to face the consequences of his decisions, or be exonerated from these allegations through due process.  
But as a Christian, I pray for healing.  I pray to love my neighbor and to love my God.  If there are extenuating circumstances that contributed to his capture, then I pray that there is healing for those.  If he and his family are Muslim, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts to the truth of Jesus Christ as the crucified and resurrected Son of God.  There is still much prayer needed and justified in this situation, even if the details of our original prayers are less than enjoyable.  
Our prayers were offered in good faith, and I trust that God received them as such and will continue to use them as such.  Our prayers are ultimately not to be dictated by political persuasions or religious affiliations.  Our prayers are to move through and beyond these things to the God who can change the things that really matter and teach us to let go of the things that don’t, to the God capable of transforming hearts and lives for eternity.  I pray that’s what He does in this situation, even as I continue to give thanks that Sgt. Bergdahl may be home with his family soon.  
Regardless of the particulars of the situation, I suspect that now is when prayers are really needed.

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