Defending Principles Expounded by Jesus—Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

During World War II, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of American-British Forces in Europe. When asked for a submission to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Prayer Book, he turned to one he “once heard a company commander repeating to his men, on a wet, cold night, just before starting a march to the front line.” Eisenhower said, “[It] struck me more forcibly than almost any other I have heard,” and he continued, “Possibly the drama of the occasion had something to do with my reactions, but in any event, it was a better prayer than I could compose.” He then explained, “While I cannot repeat it verbatim, I am sending it to you in words that approximate the original.”[1]

It is remarkable for two reasons. First, it ties the work of war to the teachings of Jesus. Second, it shows an American officer of the highest rank identifying his service with the principles of the Son of God. In that day, officials did not shrink from acknowledging the grandeur of Christ. People understood that they were not violating the U.S. Constitution in speaking this way; rather, they knew these men and women were “defending the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Almighty God, we are about to be committed to a task from which some of us will not return. We go willingly to this hazardous adventure because we believe that those concepts of human dignity, rights and justice that Your Son expounded to the world, and which are respected in the government of our beloved country, are in peril of extinction from the earth. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for our country and our God. We do not ask, individually, for our safe return. But we earnestly pray that You will help each of us to do his full duty. Permit none of us to fail a comrade in the fight. Above all, sustain us in our conviction in the justice and righteousness of our cause so that we may rise above all terror of the enemy and come to You, if called, in the humble pride of the good soldier and in the certainty of Your infinite mercy. Amen.


[1] Dwight D. Eisenhower, “From General Eisenhower,” in Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Prayer Book, ed. Gerald Mygatt and Henry Darlington (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1944), 13.