It’s 9am on Sunday morning. You’re in a circle of your brothers and sisters. Good coffee, good music, and filled with the Spirit. You prepare to join main worship. Before you do, Group Leader Kyle wants to end with a prayer.
“Jeff, do you want to close us out?”
For many men in the church, his words are expected and unsurprising. If you’re Jeff, you may feel some pressure as the floodlight of responsibility glares in your face. But if your name is Steve, Mark, or Ryan; most likely you are simply glad that the goblet of holy fire has not chosen you as its latest tribute. The odds were in your favor this week. If you’re a woman however, the odds are stacked against you.
A Harmful Trend in Prayer
I’m a man who has been in one too many such prayer circles. I identify as a Christian Feminist and it’s the weird looks I get for saying that that cause me to speak up about issues that ignite my heart. I see my sisters in the church systematically overlooked in many areas, but today I want to address this issue of prayer and ask you two simple questions.
Who does it harm?
You may think, “So what? Men are the spiritual leaders. Besides, most women don’t want to pray anyway.” To this I would say, check your theology. When Christ took the sins of the world on himself at the cross and the veil was torn; he abolished our need for an intermediary. No veil between God and the people back then means no need for a spiritual covering in the form of a male leader today. Period.
It’s that same worldly view of leadership as male-centered power that teaches us to think women don’t want to pray in the first place. Chances are they actually do want to pray but the systemic denial of this desire has taught them not to bother. And sure, some may be glad that it’s Jeff in the spotlight and not them. But that has less to do with willingness and more to do with the pressures of leadership that women are taught to fear and men are taught to stoically bear. We must focus more on creating people who want to pray, rather than using gender norms to instill a system of prayer slaves.
Why should I care?
Simple. Anything that is oppressing, denying, or hindering the faith of others has no place in the church. Failing to ask women to lead prayer harms them, the church, and the mission of God’s kingdom. If you want to see people growing, but you deny them the soil, nutrients, and light needed for growth you will see mighty trees stunted into gentle shrubs.
We all know that from youth groups, small groups, mission trips, breakfast/lunch/dinner/brunch/2nd breakfast study groups; Christians like to get together and pray. You’re already reading this post, which tells me you also care about prayer and recognize its importance to the Christian life. If prayer is so essential, why do we exclude half the church from participating in it publicly? Neglecting our Christian sisters robs the church out of its potential leaders. Neglecting our Christian sisters robs the church out of its potential leaders. Click To Tweet
Inclusion is Necessary
Here lies the problem. When we exclude a group from public prayer, we imply something about the validity of that group’s contribution to the church. Is a child’s prayer worth less than an adult’s? I don’t know many Christians who would agree with that. In the same way, Christ called the children to him and ignored his disciples’ arguments that there was no place for them at his knee. Jesus has always been about imploring and empowering the least and the forgotten. Neglecting to ask our Christian sisters to lead us in prayer implies that we do not need or want to hear their prayers; something I doubt you will find to be Christ-like.
I ask my Christian brothers and sisters to stand up and speak out in these situations. Guys, I give you permission to pass the prayer on. If you notice you’re the only gender called on to pray, use your privilege to lift up others. Encourage your sisters to lead as well and provide them the space to do so. And male leaders, call on the women in your community. Make them equal partakers of the faith and listen to their prayers. Christ called women to his feet, his cross, and his tomb; who are we to think we know better? Christ called women to his feet, his cross, and his tomb; who are we to think we know better? Click To Tweet
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Sean Lovellette is a lifelong student of history and tacos. He lives in China with his wife Cheyanne and plans to begin his PhD. in Chinese History in the fall of 2017.