General Order #9
Yesterday, I wrote about the surrender of the Confederate army of Gen. Robert E. Lee 147 years ago. But the formal paperwork announcing the surrender was not signed until the next day, April 10th, and it is interesting to note that Lee included comments about God and prayer in the document, officially referred to as General Order #9. The troops had been devastated by overwhelming opposition and Lee wanted to make certain that the men left for home with their honor and dignity intact.
He wrote, in part, “You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.” Didn’t the folks back then write beautifully? Of course, we have other examples, such as President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation or the comments he made at Gettysburg, “Four score and seven years ago…..”
But the point of tonight’s post is the fact that General Lee was a devout Christian who understood the power of prayer. He prayed for his troops, for his family, for his enemies, for his country, for the healing of the US after the Civil War and a multitude of other people and causes he cared for and loved. He prayed daily, including grace before meals and even when he was in battle or visiting troops on the front lines; he even prayed for an end to slavery! And he was steadfast in his commitment to God and to Jesus Christ. So much so, that both the North and the South considered him one of the greatest military men of all time – a man who transcended sides and became revered by both the Union and the Confederacy.
In fact, Lee had a personal prayer that he frequently prayed, eventually memorized and used by President Harry S. Truman throughout his own life, “Help me to be, to think, to act what is right because it is right; make me truthful, honest, and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me.”
I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy it when people offer to pray for me. I don’t mean that in a lighthearted sort of way – I mean I really like having people intensely pray for me and intercede for me with Jesus Christ. For I have found that there is nothing as strong as the power of true prayer. For those of you who have read these posts for some time, you know that I have gone through phases of my life when I have taken prayer somewhat lightly. I have used short “arrow” prayers when I should have been down on my knees in true submission to God.
Yet at other times, especially when I was in seminary or am around my pastor friends, I find myself in a true posture of God centered worship during my prayer times. And when I am so busy that I brush off prayer, it only takes a moment for me to realize that prayer is the thing that I need more than anything else. I think General Lee understood the necessity and the healing power of prayer.
The verse for this evening is from Paul, a titan of prayer in his own right, as he was addressing his protege Timothy. He tells his young pastor friend in 1 Tim. 2:8, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” That’s great advice for all of us.
My encouragement this evening is to remind you that prayer is a vital part of every Christian’s life. It is mandatory that we invoke the will of God as part of our everyday lives. And my prayer is that you will revel in the peace of divine prayer and that in the words of General Lee, “a Merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.” Amen…….