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Ready, Aim, Pray!
by Mike Reizman and Michael Jensen
July 25, 2004

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“Did prayer have something to do with the 'impossible' feat of Saddam Hussein's sons being killed in a firefight on Wednesday July 23, 2003? Mosul, the city where Uday and Ousay Hussein were killed, was the most heavily targeted area by praying Christians using Operation Iraqi Care (OIC), a global prayer effort coordinated by the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Prayer Team.”

-- Do The Prayers of Evangelicals Impact World Events?
The National Association of Evangelicals, July 25, 2003

Those of you who are praying for the end of war in Iraq, and for the defeat of President G.W. Bush in November, don't stop.

Certain Evangelical Christians are praying overtime, and not just for their man in the oval office. Iraqi cities have been “heavily targeted” with prayer, as have U.S. troops and the intelligence gathering capabilities of the CIA.

Operation Iraqi Care and The Presidential Prayer Team (not associated with the White House) were both launched as conduits for prayer.

At the Operation Iraqi Care Web site, you can adopt an Iraqi city “to pray for its people and needs.” An interactive map contains clickable city names, such as Mosul, Baghdad, and Najaf. (Fallujah has not been added yet.) One click and you’re taken to a Web page with information about your selected city and a form for entering your name and email address. If you sign-up, you will receive email updates “about the advance of the gospel” in your city.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), one of the founders of Operation Iraqi Care, is not considered a fringe group. President Bush recently spoke to their convention via satellite. He started off his speech by inviting Ted Haggard, the president of NAE, to Crawford, Texas, so that he could “learn the joys” of driving his pickup truck--but that’s another story.

When the NAE and other organizations launched Operation Iraqi Care in May 2003 in Washington D.C., they made a point of blunting criticism about their role in “postwar” Iraq. According to Richard Cizik, NAE VP for Governmental Affairs, evangelicals were not in Iraq to convert Muslims to Christianity; their aim was strictly humanitarian. If so, the worldwide prayers channeled through Operation Iraqi Care might be meant to pick up the evangelical slack.

The 2003 NAE press release about prayers targeted at Mosul states, “Operation Iraqi Care is one tool that He [God] is using to bring peace and democracy to Iraq and to pave the way for the proclamation of the gospel and the spread of the evangelical church.”

Though no specific mention of conversion is made, one wonders how the evangelical church can be spread in Iraq without converts--unless the congregations are formed from Iraqi Christians or evangelicals shipped in. In any event, the advance of the gospel certainly means the fight against evil.

The press release goes on to say that more “prayer warriors” somehow adopted the city of Mosul than any other in Iraq, “... and almost simultaneously we see tangible results in the death of Saddam's sons. Coincidence?”

You may be put off by the implication that a salvo of chambered prayer rounds resulted in the deaths of Hussein's admittedly evil sons. Yet the overall sense of many evangelicals of being engaged in a spiritual war is not new. And for some among them, the term prayer warrior is not an idle metaphor.

In her book on the Christian Right, Not By Politics Alone, Sara Diamond notes that there are many organizations with a membership of prayer warriors. The Generals of Intercession, founded in 1985, is one of the best known. Its founder, Cindy Jacobs, told Charisma magazine in 1994 that “churches have not been effective in winning nations for Christ because Christians have lacked a military-style prayer strategy.”

The Generals of Intercession also have their own Web site (who doesn't?). On it you can find a report by Cindy Jacobs entitled, “Babylon.” She relates that in 2002 she heard from the Lord that the United States “would go into” Iraq. After reading Jeremiah 51:27-29, she set up an "international gathering of generals" (a.k.a. a convocation of religious leaders) in response to the verse, "appoint a captain against her [Babylon]."

The convocation was held in Washington, D.C., January 16-18, 2003. Jacobs claims that religious leaders from over 30 nations attended. They paid their own travel expenses “to receive God’s battle strategies.” Jacobs reports on the testimony of some, for example:

“Another of the leaders told us she had been studying Jeremiah 50:2, which says, ‘Declare among the nations, Proclaim, and set up a standard; Proclaim--do not conceal it--Say, Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed.’ Some Bible translations say ‘confounded’ rather than ‘shamed.’ As she looked up the word ‘confounded’ in her lexicon, she found that the word in Hebrew is ‘Bush’! We were amazed at that! Each of us felt in our hearts that God wants to humble the spirit of Islam and its god, Allah, and that God is leading President Bush. We felt that the true God would prevail and the region would open for the gospel. The spirit of Babylon was going to be broken in order to change the nation of Iraq.”

Ah, yes. Well, if you want to pray for our confounded one, you might want to go to the web site of the Presidential Prayer Team (PPT). Its purpose is to encourage Americans “to pray regularly for our President, the Cabinet and our Nation.”

According to a PPT press release, the tragedy of 9/11 led to an early “deployment” of their organization, three months ahead of schedule on September 19, 2001.

Prayers on the site are quite specific and are changed weekly to keep up with current events:

“Pray for the President as he works with the United Nations' special envoy Brahimi, Ambassador Paul Bremer, and the Iraqi Governing Council as the June 30 deadline for the turnover to the Iraqi interim government approaches. Pray for the success of all systems that must be in place by then, including water and electric utilities as well as health care and education.”

The PPT seems to take for granted that our fearless leader, if not infallible, is not the source of problems. He's there to fix the problems. During the hearings of the 9/11 Commission, you might have counted this prayer on one of your rosary beads:

“Pray for the President as he considers how to re-tool the intelligence gathering methods in our country to better serve our nation's needs. In light of the 9/11 Commission's findings, President Bush feels it may be time to make changes in our nation's intelligence structure. Pray that he and his advisors will have great wisdom as they consider this.”

Non-profit, non-partisan, non-denominational, membership in the PPT is free.

With the goal of enlisting at least 2.8 million participants (1% of the U.S. population), successive PPT press releases reported an ever-increasing swelling of the ranks. Within a week of startup, 100,000 Americans had registered. More than 2,000 new members were joining every hour. In two weeks, a quarter million people had registered. With a widening of prayer to include our Military, an even greater response was to come.

In February 2003, the PPT launched a campaign called “Adopt Our Troops.” War appearing imminent, it had 2 goals: to engender daily prayer for “every military person and their family,” and "to counteract rising international anti-war protests and anti-American troop sentiment.”

These folks were not praying for peace; it seems they were praying for war.

Within a week of the start of the Iraq war, a March 25, 2003 press release stated that people were registering for the “Adopt Our Troops” campaign “at an astounding pace of 10 per second.” The press release went on to say, “For most of us it's the only thing we can do!”

Prayer, if you believe in it, can take away a sense of helplessness. However, in the case of the PPT, it's always a part of going along with the program.

As the war progressed, the organization continued to increase its base. Finally, “in just 600 days” the goal of 2.8 million participants was reached. This milestone was announced by the PPT on May 1, 2003, the National Day of Prayer, which was also the same day that President Bush strode onto the deck of the USS Lincoln to announce the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

The team took him at his word:

“Now that President Bush has declared that the war in Iraq has ended, give thanks and praise to God for the quick way this war ended. Pray for the president as he continues to work for peace and security in America and for Americans around the world.”

On that seemingly bright day you also could have prayed:

“Pray for the president as he meets with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Ton on May 6. The two leaders will discuss strengthening our bilateral relations as well as the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.”

If nothing else, the PPT is a good way to keep up with the President's agenda. The polluted water of politics has been transmuted into the vin ordinaire of prayer.

Mike Reizman is a writer and photographer and a contributor to Z Magazine. Michael Jensen is a painting contractor.