How Not to Pray for People!

I'm sure lots of people are commenting on the article about Vicky Beeching in the independent. I don't want to do that. But what I do want to do is point out a very important lesson that can be learnt from an experience that Vicky describes in the interview - a lesson on praying for people.

Here's the relevant excerpt from the article (go to The Independent to read the full thing):

"I remember sitting in my seat at this big conference, with about 4,000 people. Someone had preached about how God could set you free from anything, and I was desperate, I thought, 'I have to deal with this, it's breaking me.' They invited us to the front." The shy teenager got up. 
"The walk felt like 10 years. The music was very loud. At the altar one of the prayer team said, 'What would you like us to pray for you about?' I said, 'It's really hard for me to say this but I am attracted to people of the same sex and I've been told God hates that and I'm so ashamed and I need Him to take it away because I can't keep living like this. I'm so sad and depressed, I can't carry on.'"
Beeching stood with her arms outstretched as the leaders brought in extra people to perform the deliverance. "I remember lots of people placing their hands on my shoulders and back and front, praying in tongues really loudly and then shouting things: 'We command Satan to let you go! Cast these devils out of you! We speak to you demon of homosexuality: let her go!' People around me were wailing and screaming. It was really frightening. I was already feeling so vulnerable, it was horrible to think, 'Am I controlled by demons?'" 
How did it feel? "Degrading," she says. "Very humiliating – it made me so embarrassed."
Unfortunately Vicky's experience of humiliation in being prayed for isn't unique. But prayer isn't supposed to be degrading and humiliating - so let's not make it so!

So, if you should at any time find yourself praying for people in a meeting or a convention like that, remember two things:

  1. The person who's asking for prayer is coming to a loving heavenly Father. God loves the person who has come for prayer, and praying for them should be an expression of God's love for them. It's not about a "thing" (whatever the subject of prayer happens to be), but about a person - a person loved by God.
  2. It's not what you do that gets your prayers answered - it's what Jesus has done! So shouting, praying loudly in tongues, commanding demons - none of these things - are going to make your prayer any more powerful before God. So just cut it out!! The most powerful prayer is not one screamed at the top of your lungs with extra people called over for support. No! The most powerful prayer is a simple request to a loving Father trusting that we can come to Him and that He will hear us because of Jesus. None of our prayers are perfect. But we have Jesus as our Great High Priest, Intercessor and Mediator who takes our weak, wandering, imperfect prayers, and who purifies them and presents them perfect to the Father.
I'm so sorry that Vicky - and so many other people as well - have had to go through such degrading and humiliating prayer experiences. That's not the way it's supposed to be. That's not prayer that reflects the gospel. So learn this lesson from Vicky Beeching.

As for the rest of the article, in case anyone should ask anything, let me just recommend a really good book. If you're thinking through some of these issues (or having conversations with people who are) a really good resource is Sam Allberry's fantastic little book Is God Anti-Gay? Sam gives some good biblical answers to a number of common questions on the Bible and homosexuality in a short, clear and easy-to-read book. He's an Anglican minister here in England who has experienced same-sex attraction since he was a teenager and who also fully affirms the Bible's teaching on the subject. Sam also contributes to which is a website that seeks to provide help from a biblical perspective for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.