This month I met a chaplain who refused to pray for an Air Force general. If that shocks you, I think I should add I greatly respect him for it.
I suspect some of you are saying what my mom used to say, “You’d better explain yourself PDQ.”
It happened, or perhaps I should say it didn’t happen, in Leesburg, Va., last week where I attended a conference for Air National Guard senior chaplains and chaplain assistants. It had been a good week, but by week’s end, most of us had one hand on our luggage and one foot pointing toward the door.
Suddenly from the back of the room, someone called the room to attention, “Ten hut!” and a man walked in who had most of us seeing stars — three of them in fact, all on his collar.
The man was Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, and he is the director of the Air National Guard. This is a rank so high it makes me want to type this column from a standing position.
However, during the next 30 minutes, McKinley demonstrated spiritual warmth that nearly made us forget about his rank. He solicited our ideas and made good notes of our remarks. For all of this, he received a sincere standing ovation from us.
At the conclusion of his speech, our senior chaplain voiced a prayer request. He asked us that if we would commit to daily prayer for the general, we should remain standing. If not, we could take our seats. No doubt, this was a well-intentioned request, but it gave me some pause.
On the one hand, given the scriptural admonition to pray for those appointed over me, prayer was certainly an appropriate strategy. But on the other hand, doesn’t honesty demand I admit this request wasn’t likely to be met with any kind of regularity?
After all, my regular prayers are reserved for people I know best, and in that category, my grandson outranks them all.
I felt my knees flex as they challenged my integrity. Would I, could I sit?
Well, if you follow this column because you think me a spiritual hero, you’ve not read enough of my columns. Nothing doing. I stood with the herd.
Everyone stood. Everyone, that is, but Chaplain Stan Giles. Stan had decisively taken a seat.
Upon hearing the request, he had commenced an integrity check. He knew what we all know about our prayer habits.
He knew most of us find it easier to ascent to casual requests for prayer than to take prayer seriously. We promise our prayers to people as casually as we say “bless you” with a sneeze or “have a great day” with a gas station purchase.
From his chair, Stan seemed to be reflecting on his prayer commitments, and he knew he had neither the time nor the stamina to regularly pray for someone he didn’t know. His prayer list was full.
Truthfully, I admire Stan for his nonstanding stance. And I suspect the general would admire him, too. Because at the end of the day, the people I want praying for me are the people who know me best and who have real integrity in their prayer life — people like Chaplain Stan.