One of the greatest joys that our elders have is what we affectionally refer to as the “prayer circle” in my office on Sunday mornings before all the busyness and church commotion begins. During these prayer times, Brother Cochran would often leave us in stitches from a story or hilarious anecdote or leave us sobbing in tears by displaying such a genuine, unadulterated passion for Jesus — his Savior and best friend.
In December 2003, during operation Red Dawn, America’s special forces and elite soldiers successfully captured former Iraqi president and war criminal Saddam Hussein, the man who spent years suppressing his fellow countrymen while training and harboring terrorists. He was captured on Saturday, December 13 and by that afternoon there were billboards all over the city emblazoned with the victory quote reading “We got him!” Patriotism was running high throughout the nation and I remember the excitement at church the following Sunday morning as we celebrated our troops and our military. I remember being so proud that our country was responsible for protecting others from this horrible tyrant. I remember being so glad that he was rotting away in some dank, disgusting Middle Eastern jail cell, awaiting certain execution. I was glad about that. I even remember that in our prayer circle that morning, one of our elders thanked God for the victory of our “mighty military” and for the victory over the evil that had reigned throughout the Middle East since 1979.
In this prayer circle, I typically pray last. So, there I stood, waiting for the other men to finish praying. They prayed for our church. They prayed for me. They prayed for other issues. But, they mostly all focused on this great American victory.
But then, my dear mentor Robert E. Cochran prayed. I can’t quote every word of that prayer from memory — mostly because I was dealing the onslaught of shame and frustration that I had missed the most important fact of this weekend’s good news. Robert prayed for Saddam Hussein. He prayed for his soul to be saved. He said, “Lord, I know you love him.” He wept as he asked God to send a soldier filled with the Holy Spirit and compassion to share the Gospel of Grace with a man who would soon meet God face to face.
I recognized that I cared not one bit for this man’s soul. But, Jesus died for Saddam Hussein and for me. And my mentor, Brother Cochran, who was close enough to Jesus to always think like Jesus, was thinking and praying with Jesus’s heart. Jesus always saw a man’s soul as the most important thing. I’m grateful to have spent time with Brother Cochran, who showed me many times exactly what that looks like.
Rest with Jesus, my friend. And I look forward to fellowshipping again.