One Last Chance
Prayers for Peace

BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary for March 11, 2003

Most Americans simplify the issue of war in Iraq to either anti-war or pro-war. When the ladies at the church asked me if I was for war, I answered, "No, I'm not for war." Then I added, "I don't know anybody who is. In fact, I've joined a group of religious leaders to urge people to fast and pray this week that God might miraculously intervene and bring an end to Saddam Hussein's terrible, dangerous tyranny in Iraq so that war becomes unnecessary."

But I wanted to assure them that if nothing happened this week to stop war, I thought President Bush had made a case that war was justified. In this terrorist age, for the security of America and the stability of civilization, weapons of mass destruction cannot remain in Saddam's hands.

We have to remember that war is an extension of the authority God gives the state to restrain evil. And it is entirely biblical.

The power of the sword, remember, is given to government by God to preserve peace in a fallen world. The peace marchers in cities around the world have good intentions but wrong anthropology. Their presupposition is that if you don't do anything, everybody will live together peacefully. They have forgotten our fallen nature. Evil is the normal condition in this world, not the exception.

Christians have a totally different understanding of this issue. We don't see war with Iraq as aggression or even as primarily a military action. We don't see it as conquering or defending territory. Rather it is, as Thomas Aquinas put it, an act of Christian love. Out of love of neighbor, we are even willing to use arms to protect the innocent. Christian charity will not look the other way when innocent people are being put in grave danger.

This week a letter has been sent to churches throughout the country urging fasting and prayers for peace in Iraq. Joining me in signing the letter were: Mark Earley, President of Prison Fellowship; Jerry Falwell; Franklin Graham; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of First Things; and Joe Stowell of Moody, among several others.

Before our troops go in to remove Saddam and destroy his weapons of mass destruction, we are asking Christians to pray that God, in His providence, will miraculously intervene so that war becomes unnecessary.

The president made it clear last Thursday: Saddam can disarm. He also indicated that if Saddam was out of the picture, the new government could disarm. Scripture is full of examples of God bringing down unjust tyrants. He can do it again. Pray for these things. Peace is our first choice.

If there is not some resolution, then, of course, we must act. After much serious prayer and deliberation, aware of the solemn responsibility I bear, I have come to believe that the president is right. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq must be eliminated-weapons that could otherwise fall into the hands of terrorists and be used against us and others. If peace does not come through voluntary disarmament and we are forced to send in troops, pray for a quick conflict, the safety of our forces and the Iraqis, and that a long peace may result.

This is a momentous week. More is at stake at this moment than at any time I can remember since the days of World War II. May God give us all wisdom and grace. May righteousness prevail.

We enter the season of Lent this year with a cloud of terrorism and war hanging over the world. Many of us believe that our country is justified in going to war against Iraq, that the conflict fits the category of just war, and that intervening in Iraq is a necessary part of the larger war on international terrorism.

Still, no one wants to go to war when there are other alternatives and the Church has always been God's great alternative. Christians, as the people of God who follow the Prince of Peace, should be doing everything in our power to bring peace into the world. And even the most humble of believers can wield the greatest instrument for peace: Praying for God's miraculous intervention.

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 wield a sword or fire an arrow.

Christians should follow the example of Jehoshaphat in prayer. Yes, America has the finest fighting forces in the world. Troops are in place and all the arguments for war have been mustered. This is all necessary, but we remember that prayer is mightier than our armies and that God alone gives the victory or defeat.

Fasting and prayer are the Christian response to this perilous hour. God in His providence may yet spare us from war. We must ask him to intervene. Pray that, by God's mercy, there will be no reason to go to war. Pray for wisdom for our leaders and for God's mercy on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people. Pray as well that, if war is inevitable, it will be short and that God will spare civilians. Pray too for the protection of those in uniform and that our leaders will be wise and merciful.

The 19th-century British parliamentarian William Wilberforce 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 and it is for that reason that we have joined together to urge Christians of every tradition and denomination to make fasting and prayer for peace part of our Lenten devotion as individual believers, as families, and as congregations.

Please set aside time to fast and to kneel before the mercy seat of God. Plead with him for peace in our time.

Copyright (c) 2003 Prison Fellowship Ministries