Last week I listened to a group of Christians talking about the "American empire." War with Iraq, they said cheerfully, will secure that empire and is part of our ordained role to secure peace in the world.
Wait a minute—that is pure hubris, a terrible attitude.
This fallen world is dangerous, and out of mercy, God has given legitimate governments the power of the sword to protect us. The just war doctrine, derived from Scriptures, enables us to evaluate and hold our national leaders accountable when they must use the sword.
In my opinion, removing Saddam Hussein is necessary—peacefully, I hope, but if not, then by military means. In order to fight terrorism, we must cut off terrorists’ supplies and support. And Saddam Hussein represents both. So war against Saddam is self-defense. But Christians should never talk about war with bravado—only with reluctance, weeping, and with prayer and fasting.
We know from 2 Chronicles that King Jehoshaphat of Judah was a great warrior with a large, seasoned army. But when Jehoshaphat was confronted with an invasion, instead of riding out to meet the invaders, he led the people in prayer. "We do not know what to do," he prayed, "but our eyes are on you." And God’s deliverance came in a thoroughly unexpected way. Jehoshaphat’s army didn’t fire a shot.
Christians should follow the example of Jehoshaphat in prayer. Yes, we have the finest fighting men in the world. And the troops are in place, and all the arguments for war have been mustered. This is all necessary, but remember that prayer is mightier than our armies, and God alone gives the victory or defeat.
Last Sunday my pastor, Dr. Hayes Wicker, challenged our congregation and convicted me: "The battle is the Lord’s, but do we mean it and trust God?" He declared a day of fasting and prayer for our church this week.
What should we pray? Pray that, by God’s mercy, there will be no reason to go to war. This means God will intervene with Saddam Hussein in some way: by conversion, by overthrow, or by death.
Pray that if we need to fight, our military will use moral means to achieve our ends. And pray that Hussein will be restrained from using chemical or biological weapons. Pray for restraint so that bloodshed will be kept to a minimum—the blood of our troops, of Iraqi troops, and, above all, the blood of innocent civilians. Pray for our protection from terrorism at home and around the world.
If you are a pastor, I hope you will consider declaring a day of fasting and prayer for your congregation. If you are a layperson, encourage your church leaders to do that, and you can set aside a day for your family to fast and pray.
Fasting and prayer—not peace marches and certainly not bravado—are the Christian response to this perilous hour. God in his providence may yet spare us. We must ask him. I would like nothing better than to see a wave of prayer and fasting sweep our nation.
My great role model, the British parliamentarian William Wilberforce, so eloquently said that the hope for England depended "not so much on her navies and armies, nor on the wisdom of her rulers, as on the persuasion that she still contains many who love and obey the Gospel of Christ, that their prayers may yet prevail."
The same can be said of the United States today. Let us fast and pray.