Praying With Playing Cards

Maybe you’ve gotten an email that starts something like this: “A young soldier was in his bunkhouse all alone one Sunday morning in Afghanistan…”

It goes on to tell the story of a soldier who gets chewed out by his sergeant for not being with his platoon. The soldier explains, he’s praying with a deck of cards because the Bible isn’t allowed in the country.

Interesting, but not true. It’s a legend that dates back to the year 1762. The story of soldiers praying with playing cards continues to make the rounds in slightly different versions, and tweaked for every war throughout our country’s history.


It’s Fascinating! Here’s how it goes:

Ace: The one true God

Deuce: The Old Testament and New Testament in the Bible

Trey/Three: The Holy Trinity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit/Ghost

Four: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, evangelists and authors of the four Gospels

Five: The two groups of five virgins who trimmed their lamps for a wedding. Five were wise (by saving enough oil) and were admitted, while the other five were foolish (did not have enough oil) and were shut out.

Six: God created the Earth in six days.

Seven: God rested on the seventh day, now known as the Sabbath.

Eight: The eight righteous people whom God saved during the Great Flood: Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives.


Nine: Of the ten lepers whom Jesus cleansed, nine of them didn’t even thank him.

Ten: The Ten Commandments God handed down to Moses.

King: God, the Father.

Queen: Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Queen of Heaven.

Jack or Knave: Satan or the Devil

365 Spots: Days in a year

52 Cards: Number of weeks in a year

Thirteen Tricks: Number of weeks in a quarter

Four Suits: Approximate number of weeks in a month or the four seasons

Twelve Face Cards: Number of months in a year

For some this may be unbearably corny. But most people admire the passion behind the message. You don’t always need the Bible to pray. A creative spirit recognizes the need to worship God is stronger than the supplies on hand. Soldiers are all too familiar with “making do” during deployments. How fitting that the very same men and women who provide us with security, find peace of mind in prayer.


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