Of course I do," answered my ministerial colleague. "I pray for gays as a group. In addition, I pray for individuals I know who are gay."
"What kind of prayers do you pray?"
"Well, let's see. I pray for God to convict them that homosexuality is an abomination. I ask Him to rebuke the enemy who is working so hard to deceive people into accepting the gay lifestyle as normal. And I claim them for Jesus Christ."
"How do they react when you pray like that?"
"I don't know. I don't think there have ever been any gays around to hear my prayers."
"OK, but what if a gay person was there right beside you while you were praying? How would you pray then?"
"I wouldn't much. It's the truth, and I'm bound to say it. Maybe if they heard my prayer, it would do them some good."
A visit with grief
Our conversation faltered. Memory took me back to a hospital where I had once served as a chaplain. A dear friend lay limp and pale on the bed. Grief had wrung him cruelly during the years that he'd tended his friend dying of AIDS. Now, exhausted by his friend's death, he'd begun losing his own health.
We'd visited with each other nearly every day. Sometimes we talked about everyday topics, sometimes about his struggles with illness, sometimes about his spiritual journey and death. Yet we never prayed together. Whenever I asked if he wanted prayer, something would change in him. He seemed to grow wary. Then he would smile and say, "Just put in a good word for me sometime today." Was he afraid of prayer because he thought it would be the kind of prayer my colleague described in our conversation?
One day I approached the subject differently. "Jon,* we've been talking about some pretty heavy things. I feel deeply moved that you've let me in to share them. What I'm going to ask is pretty personal, I know, and it's up to you. I'll respect whatever you say. Would it be OK for us to share a prayer together?"
He was silent for a long time, then looked up at me with a puzzled frown.
"I think I'd like that, but I don't know how."
"How about if I say the words out loud, and you share them inside yourself?"
"OK, let's do that."
I offered Jon my hand, and slowly he took it. Together we closed our eyes. "Dear God, our Friend in heaven. Thank You for Jon. Thank You for bringing us together to share this time. Lord, I just want to lift my friend up and ask You to take good care of him. You know how alone and scared he feels sometimes. So please stay with him and be his friend. Please give him hope in his heart and comfort him. Lord, I entrust him to You because You are trustworthy and You care. Thank You for loving Jon. Amen."
When the prayer ended, Jon looked up with enormous, childlike eyes. Tears welled up and overflowed. Softly he said, "No one ever did that for me before."
* a pseudonym