December 12, 2009 Q & A

Prayers by Military Chaplains


In a New Horizons article, an Army chaplain noted that in the course of his duties ministering to the wounded he received a request to "pray in the name of Allah" for a wounded Iraqi. I have heard that in recent years chaplains in the U.S. military have been intimidated into restricting public prayers to politically correct "generic" prayers which do not mention the name of Jesus for fear of offending some members of the military. If this is the situation, how can a true believer even consider doing the work of a chaplain?


For years now, the question of praying in Jesus' name—or not—has been a much addressed issue, sometimes well, and sometimes poorly. For starters, there is no law that a chaplain must pray in the name of Allah, or any other false god, and rather, he is expected to be faithful to the doctrinal and practicing standards of his sending denomination. However, this does not mean that no chaplain is ever the recipient of unofficial (and illegitimate) pressure to give up praying in Christ's name, or to pray in the name of another god. Quite the contrary. And sometimes such experiences end up contributing to the urban legend corpus that chaplains must do such things as you have asked about. Such pressure often, though not always, comes from liberal senior chaplains, primarily directed against conservative junior chaplains. And biblically conservative chaplains sometimes are intimidated, particularly in giving up mention of Christ in prayer—but that most often happens when a young chaplain does not know how to effectively use the regulations, which support his duty to pray according to his conscience and his ordination vows. In fact, in recent years, some events have taken place in which the result has been that chaplains are somewhat better protected theologically than was the case in the past, as when I was serving on active duty. In sum, if a chaplain knows the regulations which protect him, he cannot be forced to blaspheme.



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