Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pray for men

Today my mother invited me to come to church with her -- that's right, on a Saturday. It's hard enough to get me to church on a Sunday, much less one of the other six days of the week. But it was for a good cause.

For the past 22 years, New Covenant Life Church in Chicago (Pastors John and Jo Ann Long) have held a virtual prayer marathon for men. It goes on for hours and hours. It's like an aerobic prayer workout. It's like going to the wailing wall and just letting it all out. Praying like that is extremely cathartic and therapeutic. It heals the soul.

If you have any bitterness, unforgiveness, and pain lingering in your heart from a failed love relationship, praying for your ex is one of the best ways to heal. It's a great way to just let the thing go.

If you're still mad at your father, uncle, or brother for whatever happened in the past, pray for them.

At first you'll be like, "Okay, God, here I am. I don't know what to say about that low down, dirty so and so...." It may go on like that for a couple of minutes. But soon a warmth, a sweetness washes over you and you'll find yourself praying things that never occurred to you before. Kinder things. Insightful things about the person that couldn't have come to mind while you were mad. You become more compassionate. That's when you know you're in the spirit and an All-Knowing Intelligence has taken over (thank God!).

It's actually a relief to let the hurt and anger go. It takes a lot of energy to stay mad at someone. Do you really want to meet your soul mate while you're still pissed off at your ex? You don't want to taint your new relationship with pain from the past. Pray for your ex. That's the best way to let him go.

I know. He did you wrong. So what. Pray for him. I don't care what he did. Pray and forgive him. It goes against the grain, especially if you're right and he was wrong. Still, pray for him. There's no short cut to sanity and a joyful heart.

Ultimately, you begin to realize that the prayers are also about your peace of mind, sanity, and emotional health.

I went to one of Pastor Jo Ann's first prayers for men years ago. It was held at Morgan Park High School, and nearly 1,000 women showed up to pray.

That was a powerful experience for me. If you really get into the spirit of the event, there's no way you can continue to be mad at men.

I didn't know it then, but years later, when I began to practice celibacy, the lessons from that prayer set a powerful tone for living a life without casual sex. I remember praying as if I personally was carrying the burdens of all men on my shoulders. It was crazy praying, but I just couldn't stay mad at the ones who had done me wrong after that experience.

That's not to say I never get mad at men. After all, I'm still single parenting. ('Nough said about that.) But whenever I'm in a funk about something that was said or not done, I practice prayer and forgiveness. I'm ruthless with myself about it. I don't want to set up any more karmic debts with anyone else in this lifetime, thank you very much!

Pray alone, but it's even more powerful when you pray with others. I remember how the atmosphere in the auditorium was literally throbbing with the urgency of our prayers. While praying for our fathers, husbands, sons, and loves, we women experienced a rare moment of unity. No doubt, there was a lot of pain in that auditorium. But when you pray for men, not with perfection but with honesty, you begin to realize how much pain they're in. Some of our men are really suffering -- unemployment, unacknowledged depression, incarceration, addictions. The list goes on and on.

I didn't go this year, but I was there with those women in spirit. I know the power of prayer and forgiveness. There's no way you can stay mad at someone when you pray for him. No way.

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