Same sex marriage – are we allowed to pray about it?

Mar 18, 2014 by

By Andrew Symes

Marriage has now been redefined according to law, and there are fewer than two weeks to go before the first ‘gay weddings’, the symbolic enactment of this new understanding of the “honourable estate”. The media narrative is that this is no big deal – we are really just catching up with the more ‘advanced’ Western countries – everyone will soon get used to the more inclusive idea of marriage and family. The thousands who wrote to their MP’s and signed petitions last year have been told: you’ve lost the argument. Certainly I don’t intend to go over the arguments again about why same sex “marriage” is a bad idea and against God’s created order, arguments which remain valid today. 
I’m not going to try now to convince those Christians who are shrugging their shoulders and saying “whatever” why they should be more concerned. But I do want to ask those who believe that the nation is taking a profoundly wrong step on March 29th, if we are disturbed in our spirits but seem paralysed into inaction, what do we do about it? In particular, what are the options for PRAYER?
The title seems rather dramatic – are we not allowed to pray? When I first started suggesting the idea of calling the church to pray for the nation on March 29th, I was told in no uncertain terms by senior evangelical Anglican leaders that this would send out a negative message. So I approached individual churches, asking if they were planning to pray about this issue. Would it be possible for a concerned group of Christians to use the building to pray on the day that the ancient concept of the covenant of marriage is parodied and violated? “Er, no – we have many different views in our congregation, and this would cause controversy”. Well what about encouraging people to pray in their living rooms? “Well, we always encourage prayer, but we should pray for all the issues affecting the nation and the world, not focus on marriage alone”. These are people who will agree privately that the Bible prohibits same gender sexual relationships, who are actively discouraging prayer for the nation in this crucial area of life.
We can’t be certain about the direct link between bad weather and the gay marriage legislation. But it does seem a lot more likely that there is a clear link between the way our minds have been shaped to accept the new sexuality rights agenda, and problems in the church: division over this issue, lack of effectiveness in evangelism, and fear to open our mouths in prayer to God even privately. Can there be any more striking example of the successful invasion and takeover of Western Judaeo-Christian civilization by secular humanism, than that Christians are afraid to pray about certain topics for fear of causing offence?
Most of us in the West who call ourselves Christians are so far from where we should be spiritually that we need to go back to basics. What is needed today is the recovery of the memory of God, who he is and what he has done in Christ. God really exists, and what we do matters to him in how we treat others, how we order our private lives, how we understand the world. This is the God who promises blessings for those who willingly obey in loving relationship with him, but also judgment, severe consequences in the lives of individuals and in whole societies who turn away from God, according to the timescale of his sovereign will.
If we are going to pray, we need to understand the times with greater discernment than the simplistic diagnosis of the political left or right. There is surely an underlying problem in the increasing numbers of foodbanks and payday loan companies, in ever higher rates of depression, in the crisis of broken families, and in the trafficking of sex workers and the saturation of pornography, and now the elimination of gender difference and fidelity from the meaning of marriage. As Christians we cannot simply parrot the diagnosis of the newspaper editorials – that these problems are caused by wrong economic policies. From our understanding of the Bible we know that sin as rebellion against God runs deep in us, but also we know that there are spiritual powers at work. We know that the Gospel of Jesus brings forgiveness of sin to individuals and also gives new fresh vision and hope to whole societies, replacing wrong ideas which have their origin in strongholds of opposition to God, with right ones as people embrace God’s word. If we allow these wrong ideas to take hold again, it will become more difficult to keep alive God’s memory in society, as people move from indifference to hostility to the Bible’s teaching.
Then, we can remind ourselves of what prayer is. It is the opposite of putting our trust in human solutions, for example, Church leaders making deals with secular authority for financial advantage while agreeing to change elements of our doctrine. The prophet Isaiah repeatedly warned the rulers of Judah against relying on alliances with other nations as a substitute for repenting and coming back to God, and called these faithless action plans- he called these alliances “covenants with death” (28:14-15). Prayer instead is the expression of dependence on God, our heavenly Father, summed up by Jesus in his gloriously “unrealistic” teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:25f). And it is dependence on God which reduces anxiety and brings life. For this reason, prayer works best when people are not too comfortable, and when the Church is ‘in opposition’ rather than in power. Then it becomes the ultimate rebellion against secular humanism which says there is no God (or ‘you can believe in your God as long as it doesn’t challenge us’), and “the Prince of this world” who is behind it. Prayer is an act of defiance against the controlling Powers. It is going over the head of the corrupt local authority, to the King of kings. We think of prayer as meek and passive, but not if you pray when you’ve been told you can’t!
Prayer like this is not an activity of religious duty, or wishful thinking about what would be nice to make our life easier. In prayer we are engaging with the living God, taking our stand against evil. We lament the sin in ourselves, in the nation, in the world – this is not saying that gay marriage is worse than atrocities in Syria or starvation in Sudan, but that by celebrating sin or turning a blind eye to it, we distance ourselves from the One who longs to bring about change in those places in partnership with his faithful people.
So let’s pray on 29th March. One option might be: don’t publicise it at all. This is not prayer against gay people, but prayer for the nation, lamenting and repenting on behalf of the nation at a time when a profoundly wrong idea has taken hold – but no matter how carefully we explain this, it will be willfully misunderstood. Also the purpose is to do business with God and put on his weapons against the spiritual powers of evil, not to enter into debate with people. There will be a place for public protest which can run concurrently, but this is not it. So simply get together with others who you know share your concerns, by word of mouth. Sit in silence, read Scripture, share what you feel God is saying. Then petition God – for the church to stand firm against the shallow and deceptive philosophies of the world and their promotion to children, and recover and proclaim the Gospel so the nation might retain the memory of Christ. Focus on the world and cry out to God to intervene in the places of greatest suffering, that he would strengthen the persecuted church in its witness. And for ourselves – ask for forgiveness, freedom from addictions, more compassion and courage and wisdom. If we plan to do this, the Lord will be waiting for us.

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