NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The start of war with Iraq coincided with the midweek prayer services March 19 in numerous Southern Baptist churches across the country.
Prayer also was rising from various seminary and Baptist college campuses.
A number of reports follow:
— Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn.: A special hour-long prayer service was held in response to the military action in Iraq. As people entered the worship center, they were given a slip of paper with one name, branch of service and location of about 75 men and women in the military with connections to Two Rivers. With hundreds of people in attendance at the prayer service, each military name was distributed several times so that more than one person could be in prayer for each one. Another slip of paper with “31 Ways to Pray for the Military” by Charles Stanley was distributed so that people could pray a specific verse each day for the military covering such needs as protection, wisdom, peace and courage.
The congregation sang hymns and choruses as a focus on God’s might and sovereignty. Church staff members led the congregation in prayer between songs, referencing biblical passages that remind God’s people that the battle belongs to the Lord, that he does not bear the sword in vain, authorities are appointed by him and he reigns over the nations.
Worship leader Carey Dean said as he followed the day’s events online as the headlines continually changed, he told God he didn’t understand any of the details of the war.
“God said, ‘Carey, it’s not important for you to understand the details. It’s important for you to understand that I am God,'” Dean recounted.
At one point, the congregation was given permission to use their cell phones in church. Each person with a cell phone who knew of a friend with someone away at war was asked to stand up and call that person while a small group gathered around in the worship center to pray for the specific loved one.
The service ended with the congregation getting on their knees to voice personal prayers to God for the military, the nation’s leaders, the Iraqi people and America.
— Highview Baptist Church’s East Campus, Louisville, Ky.: Rick Pearcy, a retired National Guard staff sergeant, prayed in leading the congregation’s time of intercession, “We are facing a very, very difficult time in our history. We pray for President Bush and his staff. We give thanks for a leader who’s not afraid to say he feels our prayers. We pray for our Armed Forces and for their leadership in the field. We pray for comfort and guidance for all the chaplains who pray in your name. Give them strength. We pray for a short battle and for support at home.”
Danny Akin, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who was teaching on marriage and family, prayed for the “mothers and fathers who are defending our freedoms against evil.”
— Clifton Baptist Church, Louisville: In addition to the usual midweek prayer concerns of the congregation, thanksgiving was voiced to God for his sovereignty over all the affairs of human history and the fact that his followers can trust in him.
The congregation prayed specifically for wisdom for President Bush and the nation’s political leaders, for the military forces now in harm’s way, for God to bring about good from the outcome of war and conflict, and for the spread of the gospel in the Middle East. Prayer also was voiced for pastor Tom Schreiner as he prepares to preach Sunday morning from Romans 12-13 on the timely topic of love and war. Schreiner also is a New Testament professor at Southern Seminary.
— Van Buren Baptist Church, Louisville: “Thank you, God, for our soldiers,” 5-year-old Alex Beck prayed Wednesday night. Alex’s father, Peter, the church’s pastor, recounted that Alex “understood what the psalmist meant when he wrote, ‘Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God’ (Psalm 20:7). Alex knows that our soldiers are fighting to protect America from some very bad people and that some may die, including his uncle. But, more importantly, this little boy knows that it is God who controls the battlefield. And he’s glad.” Peter Beck also is director of marketing at Southern Seminary and a master of divinity student.
— Parkland Hills Baptist Church, Fisherville, Ky: Church members reflected on the power of intercessory prayer as they gathered Wednesday night.
Citing Acts 12, Parkland Hills pastor Mark Swan told church members to expect that God will work mightily through their prayers. “We don’t need to have a cockiness, but there needs to be a faithful expectation that God will answer our prayer,” Swan said.
“As we pray for our soldiers in the Mideast, my prayer is that their faith will be increased … and that they will come home safely.”
— First Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.: Tommy Green, Florida Baptist State Convention president, in leading his congregation’s time of intercession, prayed: “The decisions rendered by the leaders of our nation have been weighed in the balance in the closet of prayer. We stand in absolute support of our leaders, military personnel and their families. Our prayer is for protection, precision and for peace. The scriptural mandate is: ‘ blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,’ [which] teaches us of privilege and responsibility. May God bless the United States of America, and may the heart of our nation be turned to the Lord.”
— Fruit Cove Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.: In Jacksonville, where President Bush rallied the troops at Mayport Naval Station in February, Fruit Cove Baptist Church, with a long list of active military stationed at Mayport and Jacksonville Naval Air Station and elsewhere, prayed Wednesday night for God’s wisdom. Dave Henry, minister of education, followed the example of 1 Timothy 2:2 in praying for the nation’s leaders; associate pastor James Goodson read 2 Kings 6:8-17 before leading prayer for soldiers and sailors on deployment; and pastor Tim Maynard, referring to Psalm 143, prayed for the nation’s security. The congregation also asked God for security and blessings for its music mission team leaving March 20 for Liege, Belgium. The church announced its sanctuary would be open to the community for prayer March 20-21.
— Mandarin Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.: Youth pastor Dan Walsh led more than two dozen students attending “The Edge” in a time of “popcorn” prayer for various concerns related to the U.S. military action. The students’ prayers were peppered with statements like, “Let your will be done” and “show us the good in it.”
One high school senior, a leader in the youth group, began his prayer with an honest admission: “It’s hard to imagine that Saddam [Hussein] and Osama [bin Laden] are people you died for.” He concluded by asking for God’s protection on America.
— First Baptist Church, Jackson, Miss.: senior adult minister Dennis Daniels led a time of special recognition and prayer for church members and others called to military service in Operation Iraqi Freedom during the church’s midweek prayer service. A total of 28 names were read aloud.
After a brief period of silent prayer, Daniels led the group in praying for protection for those involved in the deployment, as well as for America, Christians across the world and President Bush. Daniels asked that God allow the families affected by the war to have “an abundance of peace.”
“Grant wisdom to all those in power,” Daniels prayed. “We ask that you create a miracle, that you would be glorified in all this. May you always see our nation as one nation under God.”
— At an undisclosed church in the Mid-Atlantic: A reporter recounts, “I was in a meeting [March 19] helping prepare a small volunteer team from my church — a team that includes our pastor — going next month to a country in Iraq’s neighborhood. Most other groups scheduled to go there in the near future have canceled or postponed, I’ve heard, but our team is still actively planning to go — at least for now! I’m inspired by the volunteers’ willingness to serve, and to trust God to take care of the uncertainties.”
— Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.: President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a March 20 statement, noted:
“The day of decision has come, and thousands of brave Americans are fighting on the fields of battle in Iraq, and in the skies over that mournful nation. For the American people, this is another reminder that freedom is costly — and liberty must always be defended against its enemies.
“For the Iraqi people, this is the promise of liberation from a tyrannical dictator. As President Bush told the Iraqi people, this military campaign is ‘directed against the lawless men who rule your country, and not against you.’
“The president’s doctrine of preemptive military action makes moral sense in this post-9/11 world, and his moral vision reminds us of other presidents tested by war. Franklin D. Roosevelt once remarked, ‘When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.’ Those who oppose this military action must explain why they would leave the rattlesnake in position to strike.
“For all of us, this is a call to prayer. We must pray for the safety and success of our brave men and women in uniform. We must pray for our president, who as commander in chief bears such a monumental burden of leadership and responsibility.
“And we must pray for the Iraqi people, that civilians would be protected and taste the fruit of liberty.”
— Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas: President Kenneth S. Hemphill said religious leaders should be some of the president’s strongest supporters.
“For a group of interfaith leaders to criticize Bush is remarkable considering the overwhelming oppression of the Iraqi people,” Hemphill said, commenting on a news release issued by The Interfaith Alliance criticizing Bush for going to war without the support of the United Nations and the U.S. religious community.
Hemphill said he is thankful to God “that we have a president who has the courage to do what is right in spite of the political cost.”
“The United Nations was willing to overlook the fact that Saddam Hussein was committing horrible atrocities against his own people,” Hemphill said. “There certainly is no religious freedom in Iraq. People of faith should fully support efforts to bring freedom and relief to those suffering people. Our president’s compassionate concern for the plight of the Iraqi people along with a desire to prohibit potential future atrocities has led him to take this bold step.
“The Bible commands us to pray for those who are in leadership over us,” Hemphill added. “I consider it an honor to do so and encourage all Christians to do so.”
— Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.: Al Bean, professor of Old Testament & Hebrew, who leads a small prayer group named “Beyond Ourselves,” said, “We have primarily prayed about the war and its impact on Muslims and being able to share the gospel with them.” Bean said the group, which meetings each Thursday morning at 7:15, also has been praying “about the danger that will possibly lead to missionaries being attacked.”
Compiled by Art Toalston, with reports from Erin Curry, Lawrence Smith, Michael Carter, David Roach, Joni B. Hannigan, William H. Perkins Jr., David Porter & Stacey Hamby.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: UNITING AT UNION.