Prayer has suddenly become controversial. In Victoria, Australia, which has recently passed legislation on gay conversion therapy, prayer is specifically mentioned as a cause for concern. This should prompt us to ensure that we are praying for people responsibly. In two previous posts (here and here) we have considered good pastoral support for those who are same-sex attracted; now we turn to think about prayer and follow-up.
Of course, we want to pray in the midst of offering pastoral support. We desperately want God’s help. The key question though is this: what should we be praying for?
We saw last time that the lenses of suffering and temptation can be useful when we think about same-sex attraction. This side of a new creation, God doesn’t promise to remove all suffering – rather his tendency is to work good in our lives through it. And we are certainly not going to escape temptation before we get to heaven. Instead, here are some things I would want people to pray for me:
- That I would know the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).
- That God would give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that I might know him better (Ephesians 1:17).
- That I would have the power to grasp his love that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19).
- That the Lord would direct my heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
- That the Lord would lead me not into temptation and deliver me from the evil one (Matthew 6:13).
I flourish most as someone living with same-sex attraction when I am thrilled by God, when I know his love as a conscious, felt experience by the power of the Holy Spirit, and when I know that he is working for good in my life. At those times, there is a new ability to fight temptation and to rejoice in the midst of suffering. I want that to shape how people pray for me.
Alongside prayer, we want to keep providing support. One of the strangest experiences for those with same-sex attraction is the one-off conversation – where the issue is mentioned but then never talked about again. That is probably not what the person wanted when they raised the issue!
It is probably worth having a discussion: what does ongoing support look like? For the most part, that will involve normal church life – having ordinary conversations, finding areas to serve within the church, and being part of a small group. But a conversation with a pastor or somebody else in the church at an agreed frequency may be a helpful way of checking in on the topic of sexuality.
It is probably worth having a discussion: what does ongoing support look like?
Again, it is worth starting with open questions whenever you meet. My favourite question is to ask what is encouraging them (it is good to prompt opportunities for thanksgiving) and what are they finding more difficult (to allow the unburdening of pain and temptation if necessary). It may well be necessary to reiterate encouragements about the Lord’s love and faithfulness for such lessons aren’t only learnt once!
It won’t always be smooth. There may well be times when somebody begins to wander away from the Lord and into a relationship that doesn’t please him. There will need to be honest conversations – ‘I/we/the Lord love(s) you but this isn’t good and will take you away from eternal joy.’ The encouragement is that it is possible to do those conversations well.
A few years ago, a friend who has been a great support to me dropped me a message on my birthday: ‘I’m really looking forward to being alongside you in eternity.’ To be honest, it was more profound than most of my birthday cards. But that’s the goal in the end. We want to care for people well so that we stand alongside them in front of the Lord. The time spent loving and listening and praying will be well worth it.