NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The long-awaited battle for control of Fallujah, the western anchor of the Sunni triangle, has begun. Earth-shaking artillery barrages and precision munitions dropped from blacked-out aircraft have shaped the battlefield. Insurgents in their strongholds are engaging the coalition forces in what likely will be a fierce street-to-street and house-to-house battle.
In June 2003 — Iraq’s first summer of freedom in a generation — I was on one of several Southern Baptist teams scattered throughout Iraq attempting to rapidly assess humanitarian needs in a number of prioritized cities. My area included Fallujah and Ramadi, two cities known for their violence and instability. The reputation of these cities even among Iraqis was one of fear and repulsion. Yet we went because God’s love knows no bounds.
We interviewed governmental, educational and Islamic leaders about their greatest needs. In almost every case, Iraqis greeted us with kindness and hospitality, although we were aware that there were pockets of hostility. We were snubbed by the mayor of Fallujah and briefly stoned by some mal-contented youths as we delivered powdered milk to schoolchildren.
Contrary to all you have read, heard or believe, the vast majority of Iraqis were grateful for our help. They spoke of the challenges they faced in school repairs, medicinal shortages, the need for clean water and proper sewage treatment. There were sights, sounds and smells that were heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, but we discovered the greatest need was hope, and there was none to be found. We knew we had the answer, but much groundwork still needed to be done before God’s hope could be shared with integrity. As radical Islamic forces found home in many parts of the region, violence and attacks have thwarted the necessary stability and peace needed for the work there to advance.
These relational and open people, most of whom now find themselves homeless refugees, face an even more uncertain future. When they return once the fighting is over, little if any of their material possessions will be left. They will have many physical needs, but most of all they will need the hope that only Jesus Christ brings. What can be done? What can you do? How will they hear? What strategy can be implemented in such a dangerous situation?
The answer is the simplest, most powerful aid we as believers have been honored to use. It is intercessory prayer. We can shape the battlefield of this city with our prayer. We can barrage the throne of grace and ask for an earth-shaking move of God to rain down through the suffering with His love and provision. We can soften up the hard ground with specific prayers so that when the time is right, the Gospel of peace will overcome every stronghold of false religion as it goes house-to-house and street-to-street.
Here are some suggested ways to pray:
1. Pray that God might reveal Himself through our military men who are believers as they have opportunity to minister once the armed part of the conflict is finished.
2. Pray that God would reveal Himself to Iraqis through dreams and visions as He has in many other parts of the Muslim world.
3. Pray that stability and peace would allow fulltime workers, whether Iraqi or internationals, to go and live in Ramadi and Fallujah and share the love of Christ.
4. Pray for spiritual awakening and safety among our military forces involved in the fighting now in progress.
5. Pray for the banner of Jesus to wave over Fallujah and Ramadi so that houses of prayer for the nations might be established.
Andrew Lawrence is a named used for security reasons, stemming from the writer’s hopes to return to Iraq to minister in the days ahead. The writer is a local church’s minister of prayer and evangelism in the southeastern United States.