NEWTON, Kan. – As the United States prepares to invade Iraq, the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board is asking Mennonites to kneel in prayer.

In a letter to congregations, Jim Schrag, executive director of the MC USA Executive Board, is calling Mennonites to mark March 16 as a day for prayer and fasting.

The day coincides with the last day of a 40-day fast that Daryl Byler, Mennonite Central Committee’s Washington Office director, began Feb. 5 (see MWR, March 3). “Whether we do this as a congregation or a Sunday school or class, as a family or as an individual, for five minutes or for one meal or an entire day, I invite you to bring yourself before God in repentance and supplication,” Schrag wrote in his letter.

“When you read this, war may have already begun. Many of you have already prayed. Some have written to our nation’s leaders. A few have joined marches with neighbors.

“It’s time to get on our knees together as believers in Christ, to sharpen our spiritual awareness and to increase our own hunger for peace.”

A deeper hunger for peace is growing among Mennonites and those already involved in prayer and fasting, said Byler and Susan Mark Landis, peace advocate for the MC USA Executive Board.

Fasting and prayer are not instant solutions but a search for humility before God and reconciliation with our global neighbors, they said.

More than 1,100 people around the globe are fasting for peace between the United States and Iraq, including those who’ve joined a women’s fast for peace promoted by MCC Canada.

“It’s not what we do that will stop a war. That’s up to God,” Landis said. “Our job is to listen to God’s voice, to be faithful to God’s call.

“It’s important who we are, who we serve, how we worship. Actions, of course, are very important, but they must come from the core of our spiritual being ….

“My desire is that this call to prayer and fasting will give each congregation the time to listen to God’s call in their local space and that members of all ages will bind themselves together as a support community for each other.”

Byler said: “Anytime a church comes together in prayer and fasting, it’s a time to hear from God’s spirit and to humbly pay attention. It gives us courage to move in a different direction than some of our neighbors on the issue of war.”

A worship resource created by the Peace and Justice Support Network, called “By the Rivers of Babylon: A Service of Lament,” can help congregations and individuals join this call for fasting and prayer.

It uses Psalm 137 to invite congregations to mourn the nation’s state of war-making during the season of Lent. The Psalm laments Israel’s captivity in Babylon and expresses profound grief. The worship resource is available at

Used by permission from Mennonite Weekly Review.

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