Shannon T.L. Kearns
Shannon T.L. Kearns
We Wielded Prayers Like Weapons
Shannon T.L. Kearns > We Wielded Prayers Like Weapons
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Shay

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There is a scene in one of my plays where one character prays “I pray that you’ll break their hearts of stone and make them pliable.” There was always a bit of an audible murmur from the audience when this line was said. People couldn’t quite believe she said it. That she meant it. It seemed too harsh. No one would actually pray like that.

Except they do. All the time.

We wielded prayers like weapons back in the day. Praying that people’s hearts would be opened and changed. Praying that people would feel their need for God. Praying that they would be broken. Yes. That was how we were taught to pray. 

It didn’t seem cruel. It seemed like mercy because apart from God you were hopeless. Apart from God you were doomed forever. So a little bit of pain in this life in order to be saved from an eternity of torture? Well, in light of that, our prayers were kind.

I am sure that people prayed (and continue) to pray for me. That I will be convicted of my sin. That I will be brought to repentance. That I will change my ways and my life.

I used to resent those prayers. I hated that people were praying such mean-spirited things toward me. But these days I am grateful that they even still think of me. I am grateful for their prayers because I know that their prayers will be transmuted into the love that God has for me, just as I am.

And yet, I am saddened by them. Because I believe that prayer is less about “changing God’s mind” and more about changing ourselves and putting ourselves into alignment with God. And if your prayers are focused on outcomes: “God, make this happen for that person” then no matter how much you may think you’re praying for God’s will to be done you’re really praying for your own will to be done. Once again you are putting your own bigotry and transphobia onto God.

I think about the Kesha song “Praying” a lot these days (partially because it’s being played everywhere these days). To me it’s not just an eff you song, it’s also a sincere song of well wishing.
I think about growing up in the evangelical church when I hear these words:

Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become
‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”
I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

I think of the lies they told me about myself. That I was depraved and no good. That I was born sick. That my desires and bodies were wrong. That I was deserving of death simply for being born. I was told that when I left the church I was putting my soul in peril. And yes, I was put through the flames and put through hell. And yes, it did teach me how to fight for myself.

But the beautiful ending of this chorus: I hope you’re somewhere praying. I hope your soul is changing. I do hope that for all of those people. I hope they can find their way out of that fundamentalist church and into the arms of a God of love.

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Cause I can make it on my own
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name
You brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”
I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

My years in that church taught me a ton of things. It gave me leadership abilities and, against their best efforts, a mind that can think for itself and that questions and interrogates and searches for truth. That church taught me how to preach (even though I wasn’t allowed to preach). They taught me about mission and vision. They taught me how to fight. How to protect myself; because I had to.

And in spite of being taught over and over again that pride is sinful and wrong, I am proud of who I am. Proud of who I raised myself to be. Proud of who I am becoming.

Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive
I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

I do pray that they will see the light. The light of hope and grace. The light of love. The light of a God who cares desperately for the marginalized. The light of a God who cares about the world, not that they will saved someday in the sweet by and by but that they will be saved here and now. That they will have justice here and now. That God’s kingdom will come. Here and now.

So I will continue to pray and hope. I will continue to send my best thoughts and intentions their way. I will continue to hope their souls will change and that they will find peace.

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Photo Credit: raysnaps ☂ Flickr via Compfight cc