LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Even as war heats up in Iraq, Christians must continue to look to Christ and pray that God will bring eternal peace to the hearts of the Iraqi people, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said during the chapel service that became a special time of prayer for America’s war with Iraq which began Wednesday night.
Herschael York, professor of Christian preaching, said believers should continue to focus on the gospel as the only force that will ultimately liberate the Iraqi people and recreate their nation by giving them new hearts. He prayed that the outbreak of war would also lead to revival of the faith among American soldiers and citizens alike.
“As God’s people, we are aware that apart from him we can do nothing,” York said in the opening prayer. “We realize that only the Lord is our comfort. All war is an admission of our depravity. I pray that this might cause us to yearn and to long for the return of Jesus Christ. Make us truly one nation under God.
“I pray that this might even be the beginning of a time of national revival,” York prayed. “We have seen the images from the desert of American soldiers turning to Christ and being baptized in makeshift baptisteries there on the sands, we are reminded that salvation is from the Lord.”
Jim Orrick, professor of literature and culture at Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate program, prayed that God would help Christians realize that no nation is saved by its multitude of weapons but through Christ alone.
“A horse or a tank or a bomb is a vain hope,” Orrick said. “We know that your all-seeing eye is upon those who fear you, so our hope is in you. Our soul waits for the Lord and [he is] our strength and shield.”
Don Cox, professor of evangelism and church growth, prayed for the soldiers and President George W. Bush and reminded those gathered that God is the ultimate sovereign power.
“In this great time of uncertainty, there are two things we do know: [God’s] unlimited power and [his] immeasurable love,” Cox said. “We pray that our soldiers would make their call and election sure and that the war might end quickly with a minimum number of casualties. We pray for President Bush not only as our leader but also as our brother.”
Kathryn Webb, associate professor of leadership and church ministry, prayed that God would comfort the families and friends of soldiers fighting in Iraq. She also prayed that Christians would project a dynamic witness before a world torn by the war.
“We are here for such a time as this,” she prayed. “I pray that we might be enabled to love those who may be called our enemies.”
Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament, prayed that Christians would have a deep love for the Iraqi people even though the country may be seen as America’s enemies in the war. He also prayed for peace in the world and for eternal peace in the hearts of all lost men through Christ.
“We pray that love would triumph over hate, that compassion would triumph over ambivalence,” Block said. “We long for the day that swords would be beaten into ploughshares, that missiles would be beaten into tractors, when nation will not take up sword against nation and never again will have to learn war.”
In interviews following the chapel service, several students said they were praying with assurance that God would protect people in harm’s way and would expand his Kingdom through this crisis.
“My wife and I prayed last night for, of course, the safety of our troops over there [and for] the safety of the Iraqi people,” said Greg Gilbert, a master of divinity student from Linden, Texas. “Mostly, I think that I’ll be praying that when this regime is toppled, that the country will be opened up to the gospel. I would like to see missionaries flood in there and preach the gospel to all those people.”
Many students watched the beginnings of American operations the night before. The sounds of explosions drove home the fragility of life and the urgency of the gospel.
“I think the fact that it [the war] is so vivid makes you immediately think of the consequences,” said Dave Theobald, a master of divinity student from Hamilton, Ontario. “And as a Christian, I immediately think of their souls rather their lives. I’m concerned about their lives, but I just hate the thought of people dying without knowing Christ.”
Yet, students are also confident that God is in control and that his will is being accomplished.
“The images were very sobering to see,” said Mark Schweitzer, a bachelor of arts student at Boyce College. “Holding a view of the sovereignty of God such as I hold, I have confidence that through his plan and according to his purposes he will bring about a good end to this.”
Students, however, do feel the apprehension and uncertainty accompanies war.
“I guess you have to be a little anxious about terrorist attacks here,” Gilbert said. “And I hope Saddam Hussein doesn’t try to do anything unconventional over there — chemical or biological. But, I’m pretty confident.”
But, they said such uncertainty can be used by God for good.
“You know, times like this God uses,” Theobald said. “These people are more face to face with the reality of death. I’m just praying that the Lord will use that to make people see the their need of him.”
Many students have friends and family involved in the conflict.
“I actually have [a friend] who’s over there,” said Kristin Sanford, a bachelor of science student at Boyce College. “He’s 19. And I’m praying for him as a Christian that he’ll stand strong in his faith. And I’m praying for all those who do not know the Lord, that this will be a time they would by the grace of God be humbled.”
Master of divinity student Kyle McDaniel has a brother-in-law who serves as a C-130 navigator in the Air Force. He doesn’t know where his relative is, and he is concerned for his safety.
“The American Air Force is amazingly superior,” said McDaniel, a Disputanta, Va., native. “But, you know, it doesn’t take superiority [to shoot someone down], it just takes a rocket hitting the wrong spot. But once again, ultimately, we don’t trust in our own strength.”
Indeed, God’s strength, sovereignty and providence in war was a refrain echoed by each student. They each are praying that Americans and Iraqis will turn to this God in this time of crisis.
“I just trust that the president knows what he’s doing,” McDaniel said. “But more than that, like we prayed in chapel today, this isn’t ultimately in the hands of the president.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LOOKING TO GOD.