Seventy-five years ago, today, the Allies of World War II undertook the most ambitious and perilous offensive in world history. Over 150,000 troops stormed five beachheads in Normandy, France in an attempt to break through the entrenched German defenses. The Germans had successfully pushed out the British only four years before at Dunkirk and were so confident in their defenses as to name their position “Fortress Europe.” Any attempt by the Allies to break through Fortress Europe would face stiff resistance. Should the Allies fail to establish a beachhead, Nazi Germany might very well win the war, if not continue its stranglehold on the continent.
Added to the situation was the inclement weather that plagued the English Channel separating Britain from France. Surely, the German army would not expect an allied landing during such a stormy day, but the weather could also imperil the allied soldiers seeking to reach the beach.
The day before, the Allies had succeeded in taking Rome, which President Franklin Roosevelt noted in an address to the nation. However, he made no mention of the Allies’ efforts at Normandy. In his address the following day, President Roosevelt broke his silence with a notable addition: a prayer.
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.
Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.
Thy will be done, Almighty God
Through this prayer, Roosevelt acknowledged God’s sovereign hand in the affairs of nations. Scripture reminds us of this fact. The Psalmist states, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire” (46:8-9, NKJV). He states again in Psalm 66:7, “He rules by His power forever; His eyes observe the nations; Do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.” In his response to his friends, Jobs says, “He makes nations great, and destroys them: He enlarges nations, and guides them. He takes away the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless wilderness. They grope in the dark without light, and He makes them stagger like a drunken man” (Job 12:23-25). This latter passage seemed to have been born out in the lack of German tanks at Normandy, which would have been able to push the Allies back into the sea had they been present. Overall, the success of the Allies lied not in the strength of weapons, men, or strategy, but in the will of God.
As Americans take time to acknowledge the tremendous bravery and devotion exhibited by those who stormed the beaches of Normandy, we should also acknowledge the hand of God in the affairs of men. As for our nation, we should, as Roosevelt said, to continue to pray for nation’s success in light of God’s will. In a quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, we must be concerned with “not whether God is on our side… [but] to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
John Thomas Justus is an alum of TMU with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Theology degree.
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