Today is the ninth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. We might disagree about whether the war was the right decision, and about where U.S. policy should go from here. But those who belong to Christ ought to be able to agree on one at least one thing: prayer for peace, justice, and gospel in the old country of Abram.
As we pray, let’s recognize that peace is about more than an end to violence and bloodshed, although that’s certainly a first step. We should pray instead for the post-Saddam country to end the internal warring, including the persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should pray for a dawn of a new country in which human rights and personal dignity are respected and maintained, including religious liberty for all persons.
Some have dismissed, with a laugh and a wave of the hand, the idea that there could be “an Iraqi Thomas Jefferson.” This dismissal is warranted if the idea is that American ideals and institutions can be merely replicated in another cultural stream, at the point of a gun-barrel. But if by Thomas Jefferson, one means an Iraqi leader who respects human worth as bearing the divine image, then I would argue such an idea starts not in colonial Virginia but in the sands of the Middle East itself.
The freedom and peace for which we pray must also include the freedom to leave one religion for another, and to seek to persuade others of what one holds to be ultimate meaning. We should pray for the Iraqi people to enjoy political freedom, and to be free from hunger and thirst. Christians should also pray that they will gain a share in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Praying for Christian evangelism in Iraq isn’t cultural imperialism. Christianity isn’t American. Our gospel tells us that our God called to himself a Gentile sojourner by the name of Abram, out of the Ur of the Chaldees, which many scholars locate in what is present-day Iraq. Abraham was adopted into the family of God, and became, through God’s promise, the father of many nations. Those of us in Christ have been grafted onto this family. In Christ, we become children of Abraham (Gal. 3:29), with all the same promises and all the same belonging, whether we are from Tel Aviv or Tegucigalpa, Birmingham or Baghdad.
Let’s pray today for political stability in Iraq. Let’s pray for a thriving culture there. And let’s pray for Abraham’s gospel to reach back to Ur.