A scene from the movie Patton starring George C. Scott, winner of the Best Picture Oscar of 1970…
In the latter part of the movie, General Patton’s Army is moving north to relieve fellow American soldiers surrounded in the town of Bastogne, Belgium by Nazi forces. It’s December and the snows outside keep coming, hampering Patton’s operations. He calls for the army chaplain to come to his headquarters…
CHAPLAIN: You wanted to see me, General?
PATTON: Oh yes, the chaplain. I’m sick and tired of the Third Army having to fight the Germans, the Supreme Command with no gasoline, and now this ungodly weather. I want a prayer, a weather prayer.
CHAPLAIN: Weather prayer, sir?
PATTON: Yes, let’s see if we can get God working with us in this thing.
CHAPLAIN: it would take a pretty thick rug for that kind of praying.
PATTON: I don’t care if it takes a flying carpet.
CHAPLAIN: (after a pause) I don’t know how this is going to be received, General. Praying for good weather so we can kill our fellow man?
PATTON: Well I can assure you sir that because of my intimate relations with the Almighty, if you write a good prayer we’ll have good weather. (pause) And I expect that prayer within an hour.
CHAPLAIN: Yes sir (he mutters as Patton marches out of his headquarters.)
The chaplain heads downstairs to work on the prayer which he indeed has ready in less than an hour. It is delivered to General Patton who then heads outside in the snow as troops scurry about in the darkness, continuing their move forward.
With stirring music in the background Patton unfolds the prayer and reads it, with deadly battle footage shown as he reads…
PATTON: Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee on thy great goodness to restrain this immoderate weather with which we’ve had to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us and soldiers who call upon thee, that armed with thy power we may advance from victory to victory and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish thy justice among men and nations. (Long pause) Amen.
Amazingly the next day dawned bright and clear, Allied planes were able to fly in again and the tide of battle was turned. In the movie General Patton called for the chaplain to come to him again because he was going to pin a medal on him. He stood in good with the Lord.
Now of course this is Hollywood, and they can never seem to get the story exactly right or just as it happened. Real life always needs some extra drama inserted into the mix.
Do some web searching and you’ll find that there was indeed a Patton weather prayer written by an army chaplain in December 1944. It really happened.
The changes? Patton’s army was slowed down by incessant rains that month, not by snows. And it was not while they were charging north in France to rescue surrounded comrades, that came a little later that month. But the words of the prayer in the movie are nearly the same as the actual prayer.
It’s a stirring scene nonetheless. And it’s interesting on what drives us to offer our prayers to God.
There are the obvious reasons – someone is seriously ill or near death or dying. Or a person in someone’s family is affected and we pray for the family. Someone has lost their job and is in dire financial straits. Someone is down on their luck and needs help from above to turn things around.
We’ve all heard of the people who pray to God for something and if He would just deliver, they promise to do something – change their lives, go to church again, give to the poor, get a new job that helps people, become a minister or priest.
Some prayers are long and seem to go on…and on…and on. If it’s a minister who goes long perhaps they are paid by the word.
Our Lord’s Prayer of course is pretty short – you can recite it in 30 seconds. The old saying – brevity is the soul of wit. Translation: get to the point. We’re told that God knows our desires before we even utter them. Why waste the verbiage?
But sometimes prayers involve – the weather. For our friends in the Louisiana area a pair of extreme storms this week is testing their mettle - and their flood plans. Out west we once again hear about devastating wildfires that are destroying homes and lives. In both of those places those are almost annual occurrences.
The weather has played a role in our neighborhood as well this summer. After plenty of moisture this spring the rain suddenly hit the brakes in July and August. REALLY hit the brakes, combined with hot dry conditions that have turned lawns very brown and shriveled corn and other crops.
Local farmers have had a tough stretch. Add in the current COVID crisis and it’s a double whammy that could be financially threatening to some locals.
Toss all of that together and it sounds like a desperate need for a prayer. A weather prayer.
So let’s take a swing at this. If it worked for General Patton…but in more modern every day language…
Most gracious Heavenly Father,
We give you thanks for your great goodness bestowed on us day after day, year after year.
All of creation is yours and for that we humbly thank you for our many blessings.
But sometimes we lose sight of your gifts, thinking that all we have and all we are are ours alone.
We look around and marvel at what WE’VE done and what WE’VE accomplished,
forgetting that it was YOU that set the world into motion and everything in it – the people, the animals,
the mountains and valleys, the oceans and rivers. And the plants from which we are sustained.
We ask Lord please for that reminder of your power and majesty, some gentle and soaking rains to replenish our parched lands and wash our souls.
As we move forth with our human struggles of a sickening virus, or the misuse of others, or the ignorance of not really loving our neighbors both near and far, or the choices of those who lead us, remind us that You are always with us and want simple acknowledgement that You are the way, and the truth, and the life.
We ask these things in your Holy Name…
If you feel so inclined, read that prayer over the next couple of days. Say it out loud if you wish. Perhaps if enough people utter it…
In the Patton story (the real story, not the movie) the General had his chaplain’s prayer printed on one side of a small card and then distributed to every soldier in his army, over 250,000 men. We’ll assume all of his men read the prayer at least once.
And the weather cooperated.
Perhaps, just perhaps….history can repeat itself?
From George Churchgoer
EDITOR'S NOTE: Our friend George wrote this post on Tuesday, reciting the prayer several times. And this week we finally got at least a little….coincidence? 😊