A nearby explosion jolted me awake, and alarms started to blare. For a moment, I couldn’t figure out what was happening. The glowing white numbers of my alarm clock told me it was 06:00. I looked around the darkened room, wondering what was going on. Nothing seemed out of place.
But then a second and third blast began a barrage of incoming rocket-propelled grenades and bursts of gunfire outside. I was not sure from where the barrage was coming, but I knew we were under attack.
Feeling my adrenaline kick in, I rolled off my bed and began grabbing my gear. As I pulled on my tactical vest and helmet, I could hear the continued wail of alarms and the engines of the Quick Response Force vehicles rev as they rushed through the camp to meet the attack.
With my M9 pistol strapped to my side, I grabbed my rifle and headed into the hallway to await orders.
I was about nine months into my longest deployment to Afghanistan with the United States Air Force. My responsibilities working with the senior Afghan Air Force finance officer and officials from the Afghan Ministry of Finance often put me in harm’s way, and I had felt the Lord’s protecting hand. But this attack was a first for me. When our colonel asked for volunteers to follow him outside, I joined six others taking position around the building in case attackers overran the gate.
The colonel ordered me to take my post on the side of our base that faced the attack. Gunfire continued as people darted left and right, seeking shelter. Marines posted on the top of a nearby building ducked for cover as rocket after rocket flew into the camp to the north of my position. They rocked the ground and buildings when they exploded. Some hit a hangar. Many left craters.
I lay on the ground with my M4 assault rifle pointed toward my sector of fire. Deafening gunfire surrounded me, though it was directed toward the camp to the north of me. I had trained for such a scenario but had never faced a real threat. I was terrified, and I wasn’t even in the thick of the fight!
My stomach knotted. Sweat coated my skin. I braced myself, expecting at any moment that a rocket would explode where I lay. Thoughts of my family popped into my mind.
“Heavenly Father,” I prayed, “please protect us so we can all get home to our families.”
As I finished my prayer, a memory played in my mind that momentarily replaced the sights and sounds of battle. The memory was of seven-year-old Gabriel, one of the boys in the Primary class I taught back in the United States. Just a few weeks earlier, his father had emailed me a video of Gabriel praying at his bedside—praying for me and for my safety in Afghanistan.
I remembered teaching my Primary class about prayer. At the time, I had wondered if any of them understood the miraculous power of prayer. But when I saw that video, I was astounded by the faith of that little boy—something I witnessed with many of the children I taught.
Now the memory of that simple prayer inspired my faith in that terrifying moment. I felt God tell me that little Gabriel was praying for me. I knew He had heard Gabriel’s prayer, my prayer, and the prayers of countless others on my behalf. I felt peace replace worry. I felt in my heart that my fellow servicemen and I would be all right.
When the firefight finally ended six hours later, we assessed our casualties. To our surprise, nobody in our camp had been injured by the 47 rocket-propelled grenades and thousands of rounds fired into our camp.
I knew I wasn’t the first to pray on the battlefield. I also knew that not every battlefield prayer had been answered in the same way. But I was grateful for the assurance that God hears and answers our prayers, even those of a little child.