Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Letter From An Iraq Vet Who Found The Answer to Suicide!

Dear Peggy Joyce and Mary,

Below is a letter to our Military Prayer Group written by a 22 year old Iraq vet. He is now in Army Reserves, he leads our prayer group weekly, and he is, frankly, an amazing young man.  When the 3 moms (including myself) started this group, we prayed for a military man to come forward and take the lead. Of course, our thought was that an experienced, older gentleman would step up.  But God had a younger man in mind and after just a few weeks, we handed him the prayer 
lead... God Bless you both for your sincere and wonderful help in reaching others that you'll only meet in heaven. The letter below is long, but worth the read.


Andrea Lanning
Calvary Chapel Boise, Idaho

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January 10, 2014 
Dear Friends, This is a letter of reminder and encouragement, and I tell my military testimony on the next pages. But first, I was reminded the other night, while we were praying, of the raw power of prayer. We were reading the Psalm 91 book like we do every Monday night during the Military Prayer Group and God used chapter 17 to open my eyes (Pgs 104-108). Chapter 17 is about prayer and, as you all know, prayer is the foundation and heart of this Military Prayer Ministry. We all know that God wants us to pray to Him and to come together in prayer for our own lives and the lives of others, but how sincerely do we really believe this?
I want to focus this letter on the importance of prayer, what it means and having a healthy prayer life. What we Christians seem to lack often times is prayer. Maybe you pray before meals and bed (as long as you're not too tired, of course), and during designated prayer times. That is good, don't get me wrong. I often ask myself, "But why don't I pray without ceasing?" There really is no excuse. Our prayers don't have to be in a certain format for God to delight in them nor do they need to be a certain length. He just wants us to pray to Him often. And trust me, the more you pray the more you grow. My father recently told me that he has been praying to God and "things seem to be falling into place." This is coming from the man who called himself the antichrist to his children and has had a very rough life. But when he finally decides to pray to God everything starts to work out for the first time. This is no coincidence. God tells us to pray for a reason. "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing" (1Thes 5:16, 17)
There are many places in the Bible that tell us to always pray and to come together to pray for one another. However, I do not see this happening on a larger scale. Chapter 17 in the Psalm 91 book reminds us of a nationwide call for prayer by the President of the United States, Roosevelt, in 1942. Imagine a nation in prayer, what a beautiful site! Here in 2014 we are lucky to see churches come together to spend lengthy times in prayer at all. There seems to be a decline in prayer going on. So I would like to remind everyone of the importance of prayer. The Lord says that whoever asks shall receive and the only way that I know how to ask God for something is through prayer. People need prayer. This is why we have formed this group to pray for the military specifically. However, we must pray always for anyone and everyone that needs it. These prayer requests that come in daily are real people in need of real prayers. That is why we pray over them and for them.
It says in Revelation chapter seven that our prayers are in a golden bowl and are like incense to the Lord. He likes our prayers and He answers them. He wants you to spend some intimate time with Him, one on one and as a group. So pray with us daily in your own home or wherever you are; we need to join together in prayer for our military, for each other, and the daily battles we face. Moreover this is an encouragement to all of you! The prayers that have been said are working and moving mountains in people's lives. We see the direct result of your prayers for these military soldiers and families every day. So I encourage you to continue in prayer and to rejoice in the fact that God actually listens to us. There is a reason He is often called the Father. He wants what is best for us and like any good parent He wants us to ask for it properly. So God wants to give us comfort, peace, and the desires of our hearts. And He already has it for us, we need only ask. Moreover, He wants us to help others. That includes prayer for other people; sometimes all we can do is pray. We can be Christians all our lives and yet never tap into a real prayer life the way God intends us to. "Lord, teach us how to pray." (Lk 11; 1)
I would like to share my personal experience with prayer while I was in Iraq in 2010. I hope this will shine some light on the vitality of prayer that I have found in my own life.
In Iraq I was fortunate enough to have a team leader, an Army Sgt E5 that led a very spiritual life; he was 36 years old and was my first real Christian teacher. He would discuss the Bible with me and we would pray often. He taught me how to be bold as a Christian and not worry about the other soldiers that were trashing on us about our faith because they were the ones missing out.
We landed in Iraq for an 11 month deployment doing route clearance (finding IEDs). I was 19 years old and not ready for this. We started a small prayer circle before every mission which consisted of a few of us believers. We didn't care about what religion we were; we just knew we needed prayer and protection from above. We prayed together every night, and every night mortars fell down around our base like clockwork for 11 months. Yet our company never lost a soldier to mortars. Over time, the prayer group had grown significantly. One night before a mission we prayed for protection and sharp eyes. Immediately after we finished our prayer we heard the mortar alarm and a mortar landed just 10 feet from one member of our prayer group and about 30 feet from everyone else. It did not explode as it spun on the asphalt like a child's toy top.
Our teams were not without danger. We were hit with IEDs and yet not one soldier in our company fell victim to one of them. My truck drove past a nasty EFP (explosively fired projectile) that was meant to rip through our vehicle with molten copper at 10,000 feet per second triggered with a motion heat sensor. Miraculously, it did not go off - it had been buried a little too deep. As we investigated it, we accidentally disconnected it - just as we moved the dirt off the motion detector. During my time in Iraq, no soldier in our company was shot during contact with the enemy and no one was killed in action.
I could not deny what the power of constant prayer, every day, every night, and every moment on the battlefield had done for us. It was plain as day and many other soldiers saw it as well and joined our prayer group before missions. When we finally got back to the US we rejoiced and then we each went home to our families, to our lives, and I stopped praying - and started drinking. Many of us turned to the bottle when we got home. It was here, in the US, that the deaths started. Close friends that had given their lives to Christ, we lost to suicide. It was New Years Eve 2011 when I tried to commit suicide for the first time but failed. I could not do it; something was keeping me from doing what I wanted so badly. It was God. However, it wasn't after that failure that I saw my need for God. In fact the next New Years Eve 2012 I tried to commit suicide once more and failed. But it wasn't after that either.
It was at M---'s funeral here in Boise. I remember standing in the cold January snow looking sharp and brilliant in my dress uniform, though I felt a great emptiness inside. I felt like my uniform was dirty with his blood. I was one of the soldiers to fire off three shots during the 21 gun salute to our fallen brother. I think it was the cold of the rifle I held in that moment or the smell of gunpowder combined with the sorrowful tears of his family that reached into my soul. I was reminded of how God had saved us in Iraq when we prayed every day and when we got home the prayers ceased, and the deaths began. When my first buddy, Carr, had committed suicide it didn't sink in; it took the second funeral of one of my fellow soldiers, M---, to remind me of the power of God. I felt so guilty and somewhat responsible because I had done nothing to help them. I had no idea they were struggling so badly but I knew I should have known.  Since coming home in 2010, five of the guys in my company have killed themselves.
It was after M---'s funeral in 2013 that I decided to do something about the hurting soldiers and the only way I knew to do that was to pray. I decided to celebrate the life that God has given me and use it for good. I straightened myself up, turned back to God, let Him fill me with the Holy Spirit once more and started really fighting for my life. Jesus is my commander now. Since I came back to the Lord my life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined. This last New Years Eve of 2013 I spent with my wife, Candis, who is now pregnant with our twin babies. We are attending Ministry Discipleship School at Calvary Chapel Boise, I am the prayer leader at the weekly Military Prayer Group, and I have a job but need a better one. (I'm currently praying about that.) 
This is why the military ministry is so very close to my heart. This life is not easy, and we all need help to get through it. Jesus is the only way to be truly healed and set free. So join us in prayer for those in need and come to us for prayer if you need it, because we all do. The week of fasting and prayer that our church does is coming up and I encourage you all to participate and take the next step in prayer: To pray without ceasing. So let us continue in prayer and please join us if you can on Monday nights at Calvary. It is such a powerful thing to come together and pray to our God. We are all at war right now with the enemy but God has given us the weapons we need to face our enemies with courage and strength: Prayer, His Holy Spirit, and the Word of God. Join me in battle, "if our God is with us then who can stand against?" "Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand"... "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit..." Ephesians 6:13,18 
J. L., Army Reserves

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