Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Power of Prayer

I recently learned that an evangelical website has included my name, along with those of several other gay Christian writers, on a list of people whose salvation should be prayed for.

Now, some folks might get indignant at something like this. Are the pray-ers suggesting that we are somehow uniquely in need of prayer for our salvation?

Who cares? The fact of the matter is that somebody out there is praying for us -- perhaps even several somebodies. Praying for somebody's salvation is never a bad thing, and it never hurts the person for whom the prayers are being offered.

I no longer get angry when somebody tells me I'm a sinner and warns me I'm in danger of going to Hell. Heck, if they didn't care where I ended up, they WOULDN'T warn me!

Nobody died and made them God, so the decision -- one way or another -- is not theirs to make. God got to decide whether to offer salvation to me and chose to do so through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I get to decide whether or not to accept His offer of grace and salvation. I have already chosen to say "yes" to the best offer I will ever get.

While a general turning-away from sin is indeed required along with the acceptance of salvation in Christ, Christians differ over the specifics of what sin may or may not be. Our own, individual consciences will either accuse or excuse us on the Day of Judgment (see Romans 2:14-16), which clearly implies that, for example, when Paul goes before the Throne of Grace, he may have a slightly different way of reading his own conscience than does Martin Luther, or Mother Teresa, or Jerry Falwell, or that little old lady on the streetcorner with no teeth who gives out the Bible tracts. Jesus gave us some very clear guidelines on how His followers ought to interpret what sin is and what it isn't, but those who talk the most about Jesus often seem to have the least understanding about what He meant.

Gay Christians and anti-gay Christians, to give just one example of many, disagree about whether loving same-sex relationships are sins. But if an anti-gay Christian wants to pray for my salvation instead of trying to get me fired from my job, kicked out of my church, thrown into jail or written out of the Constitution, I regard this as a major step in the right direction.

A little clarifier for all you "multiculturalists" out there. While Christians pray for the salvation of those they consider sinners, a great many Muslims pray for their damnation. The Christian God mourns every sinner who goes to Hell. The Muslim Allah rejoices every time another one gets pitched into the flames. Not every Muslim believes this, of course -- nor does every Christian consider it a bad thing when somebody of whom they disapprove (they think) is damned -- but throughout much of the world, this does tend to be the general pattern.

And a little clarifier for you anti-gay Christians. When you tell me that you're praying for my salvation, and I return the favor by saying I'll pray for yours, too, don't pour cold water all over the warm specialness of the moment by getting mad at me for it.

There's nothing insulting about being called a sinner. According to the Christian faith, we all are. Just remember that the next time you call somebody else one.


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