- - Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dasht-e Kavir, Iran — April 24, 1980 — 22:30 hours.

I stood watching in disbelief as flames reached skyward into the darkness of the Iranian desert. The Delta Force was here — in this remote spot about a 100 miles from the Iranian capital, Tehran — because we’d been directed by President Carter to rescue 52 American diplomats being held by a group of radical students at the U.S. Embassy in the capital. This was a refueling stop before we made our final night assault on the embassy to bring our fellow Americans back to their families and to an American public that was eager to welcome them home.

Now our hopes had turned to disappointment and desperation as we gazed at the burning wreckage of an Air Force C-130 and a Navy RH-53 helicopter, which had collided on the ground after refueling. As the helicopter pilot had attempted to reposition after completing his refueling from fuel bladders in the C-130, he’d lost his equilibrium — he “went vertigo,” in aviation lingo. Lifting off, he’d lost control and crashed into the C-130, slamming into the top and left side of the cargo plane. The eruption was immediate; aviation fuel exploded in the helicopter, engulfing the C-130 in a massive ball of high-octane fire.

Initially, I turned to run as I felt the heat and saw pieces of metal flying out into the desert. But I didn’t go far, only a few steps, before I became fully aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I even sensed Him calling me to stop and turn back toward the wreckage. I spun around, knowing that an explosion would come quickly when the fuel in the C-130 finally ignited. Then the reality hit me: Forty-five Delta Force men were trapped inside the wreckage with no way out and no chance to survive the fire. And I could not help them.

Only 18 hours earlier, I had stood with these men in an old Russian MiG base in Wadi Qena, Egypt, as we prayed for God to go with us on this mission. I’d led the prayer that morning before we launched the operation, petitioning God to keep His hand of protection upon us. And now I was watching those same men die a fiery death while I stood helplessly by.

It took only seconds before I instinctively began pleading with God for the lives of these men. My prayer was that of a desperate man who knew that only God could save those 45 souls in that wreckage. “Oh God,” I pleaded, “please spare them! They trusted You, Lord! In Jesus’ name, bring them out alive. God, I’m asking You not to let these men die.”

It was all I could do — and the most important thing I could do.

My plea was sincere. They needed a miracle, and there was no time for a great oration or for the promises of what I would do in return if God would come through for them. There wasn’t even time for me to go through my normal routine of thanking God for everything He’d already done for me in the past, or for telling Him what a worthless sinner I was (as if He didn’t know). And no time for pomp or style or fancy words. Those men needed this miracle now.

So, there it was, my 10-second prayer. And it was all I had to offer. “Over to You now, God.”

Suddenly, the right troop door of the C-130 opened. I could barely see through the flames, but instantly I saw the miracle take shape. Forty-five men jumped one by one through those flames and out onto the desert floor, then ran from the crash like a redbone hound on the scent of a raccoon.

“Yes, Lord — thank You, Lord! You are so awesome, God!” I spoke the words aloud as I ran to greet these men and to help direct them to the safety of the other C-130s some distance away.

Does God hear and answer every prayer we pray as believers in Him? Yes. Sometimes His answer is “yes,” sometimes it’s “no,” and many times His answer is, “Wait.”

All things are done — and all prayers are answered — according to God’s loving grace and His will in our lives. We may not understand His plan or His reasons for how our prayers are answered, but rest assured God has a plan. Many times I have found significant opportunities for those 10-second prayers, sustaining my life and faith and pushing me forward to fulfill the plan He’s set out for me.

And that plan definitely includes an ongoing relationship between you and Him that is marked every day by your prayers and His answers.

Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin (U.S. Army ret.), was one of the original members of the elite Delta Force. After a military career of 36 years, he now serves as executive vice president at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.

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