Thus, the thirteenth warrior, Ahmad IbinFadlan is recruited (shanghaied) against his will to tag along. He’s ridiculed at first. He looks different. He doesn’t know their language. He rides a small Arabian, he’s weaker, his sword looks weird, he doesn’t drink… However, he earns their respect by quickly learning their language, being an asset in battle and having an ability to write. Whenever they arrive at their destination, they find an emaciated village that has been plundered by an evil army of “bear looking” men. The evil “Wendols” that dress to appear as bears and cut the heads off of their enemies. Defenses are quickly erected and a ragtag group of soldiers prepare for a fight to the death alongside the Vikings. They initially repel the attackers, but at a great loss. It’s fearsome fighting, with fires raging, arrows whizzing, swords singing and axes crunching. It’s clear that this will only end one way… all must be defeated in order for there to be victory.
With only a few Vikings remaining, and the villager’s numbers dwindling, Ahmad Ibin Fadlan bloodied and bruised, about to begin what is likely to be his final battle in a war and with a group he never intended to join... prays.
He watches the enemy advancing in a long serpentine formation down the hillside, their torches held high, illuminating their bear-like battle masks, meant to instill terror in their foe and rightfully so. Their howls and cries echoing the message through the still night air… death is coming!
His prayer is to the point. He doesn’t focus on eloquence, poetry or length. It’s the heartfelt prayer of a warrior, facing death:
Merciful Father, I have squandered my days with plans of many things. This was not among them. But at this moment, I beg only to live the next few minutes well. For all we ought to have thought, and have not thought; all we ought to have said, and have not said; all we ought to have done, and have not done; I pray thee God for forgiveness.
And that’s it. I never forgot it. I think its simplicity ministered to me. “For all we ought to have…” I often find myself incorporating phrases of this prayer into my prayers. That’s not unusual for me. I often hear phrases of scripture, a line of poetry, a movie quote or part of a speech, spontaneously erupting from me when I try to articulate my point to God. The fact is, someone else has already expressed it in a better way than I could have and I remembered it.
I’m reminded of a night when my son was only about four years old. After a long, busy day, I carried him to his room to put him to bed and reminded him to say his prayers. I then launched into a dissertation on why we pray and listed the people it would be good for him to pray for. I was trying (overzealously) to instill into him the importance of praying. “We pray for our family. Your sisters, your parents, your friends… sick people, people struggling with their finances, people battling addictions…” I went on. When I finished, he knelt beside the bed, bowed his little head, and with feeling said, “Oh God, help all of those people that need help, in Jesus name, amen.” And went to sleep. It tickled me. And it reminded me of a few things…
He knows what we need before we pray. And nothing we could say, sing or utter could impress God. What impresses God is what comes from the heart. And I don’t think it matters to God if we incorporate other things into our prayers. Why would it, if it’s heartfelt? I don’t think prayers have to be eloquent, original, lengthy or poetic. They just have to be…prayed. Real men pray.
Marine. Husband. Christian. Father. Pastor. A Real Man helping masculine men find their place in God’s Kingdom, without sacrificing masculinity to do it.