Pray Away the Gay???? Say WHAT Rhode Island?

Have you ever felt really alone? Try being an evangelical in Rhode Island.

I used to believe that maybe I just have an isolation complex but a local pastor told me this weekend that there are so few evangelicals in Rhode Island, we actually qualify as an unreached people group.

Today, I verified that statistic: “Only 1.6% of the state of Rhode Island attends an evangelical church on any given Sunday. The International Mission Board (SBC) defines an ‘unreached people group’ as one with less than 2% evangelicals. A 2011 Barna report lists Greater Providence as only 1% evangelical.” **

That helps to explain what I heard on talk radio today.

I know I shouldn’t listen. I know it’s just going to raise my blood pressure but I was stuck in my car driving “all the way to Providence and back” this afternoon and there it was. The topic of the day was whether or not people believe it’s possible to “pray a person out of being gay.”

This isn’t a post about homosexuality. It’s a post about my frustration that so many Christians cannot give a reasonable and articulate argument for our hope and faith in prayer!

Peter wrote, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” I Peter 3:15

The callers I heard today have no clue. The ones who called to “defend the faith,” while at least bold enough to weigh in, couldn’t do much more than condemn the sin of homosexuality because it “says so somewhere in the Bible.” They didn’t even bring up the subject of prayer. It was like a parade of religious characters from South Park or Family Guy.

Not ONE person defined prayer as our means for communicating with the Creator of the universe within the context of a living relationship. Not ONE mentioned that we practice a faith where we believe our God can raise the dead so it’s not a GREAT leap for us to imagine He can change a person’s mind about who he or she loves. Not ONE suggested that prayer is not a meaningless enterprise tantamount to chanting “Om” during a yoga class, nor is it a spell or incantation recited in a circle under a full moon but a complex and ongoing dialog between humans and a God who is capable of curing cancer, moving mountains and transforming hearts.

Worse, most of the Christian callers, after only one or two barely penetrating comebacks by the radio host finished weakly by saying, “Oh, yeah, you probably can’t pray away gay.”

I was transfixed, listening, hoping, for ONE reasonable caller who could shine some light onto the topic but there was none – no one.

At my last writer’s conference, people would ask my husband and me if there were many evangelicals in Rhode Island and we would jokingly respond, “Well, not this week.” I don’t find that joke very funny these days.

One thing that has been crystal clear to me in the past few years is that God has “stationed” me in Rhode Island. As a college student, I tried everything to be “called” to foreign missions but God closed each door I frantically tried to pry open and left me here. For a long time, I felt benched, sidelined, unchosen.

I envy my southern brothers and sisters and those in the Mid-west. I frequently moan and complain to God about why He would even bother to place a Christian writer in Rhode Island – I mean, really, who’s going to listen?

But, I get it a little more today. I mean, seriously, people, if we can’t even articulate the benefits and power of prayer, what are we even thinking trying to share our faith? Every evangelical in Rhode Island should hear the call “all hands on deck!”

Before you say that you are not eloquent nor are you bold, remember that the writers of scripture were not educated at Harvard or Brown nor were they very courageous to start. They were, for the most part, simple men but they were full of the Holy Spirit and thus had the words and the nerve to speak when the time was ripe.

This blog isn’t a call to study apologetics, it’s a call to experience your relationship with God through scripture and through prayer in such a meaningful way that you can speak spirit-filled words when the opportunities arise!

My Southern brothers and sisters keep calling me to come join them. I guess today I’m thinking I should be encouraging them to pray about coming up here!

Have you always longed to serve God by ministering to an unreached people group? Come to Rhode Island. If you live here already, stop studying what methods are working in the Bible belt for church growth and ask God how to reach an unreached people who may have been vaccinated against the gospel by receiving a weakened version.

Maybe it’s the heat and humidity but I am on fire to be a voice for the unreached people among whom I live and move. And I’m going to suggest the use of a most powerful weapon in the battle against the darkness threatening to consume New England – PRAYER!

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    The Conversation

  1. Rachel Chiasson says:

    Boy can I relate to this, Lori! Living in an “unreached population” myself. I’ve also felt sidelined and benched in the past, but I join you in PRAYER for my area and yours! In Jesus’ name!!!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Oh my. I never really thought about us being an “unreached population”, but it sure does make sense. Hmmm… now what will I do about that? 😉

  3. I’m on my knees with you, Rachel!

    Jennifer, you have responded like a true follower of Christ! Praying for you, too.

  4. I want to “experience a greater relationship with God through Scripture” … thanks Lori. Praying for the 99% of Rhode Islanders….

  5. Maurie says:

    You are on target. I do believe in the power of prayer to move the Almighty God to transform hearts–starting with mine. As part of a Moms in Touch group for over ten years, I can attest to His power. Thank you, Lori, for a passionate plea for each of us to speak about the power of the living God.

  6. I was once one of those unreached in RI. An Episcopalian upbringing (high church, no less), taught me nothing about prayer, nothing about salvation, nothing about heaven. How religiously sheltered was I? I got to URI and someone told me he was a Methodist. I had no clue what a Methodist was.

    The summer between junior and senior years God began to reach me through a televised Billy Graham crusade and the witness of an on again/off again Christian girlfriend. But it was not until Easter Sunday morning, after attending Episcopal services with my grandmother, that God and I completed the transaction, right there in my bedroom at my grandparents house in Snug Harbor. That was 1974. It’s been a wonderful, joyful journey since.

    Two months after that Easter I packed up all I owned in my 1966 Plymouth Valiant and headed west, to Kansas City, with many wanderings over the years, never to return to RI but for vacations, weddings, and funerals. I like to describe myself now as an evangelical Rhode Islander in exile in the South.

    P.S. Two of my high school/college buddies are among that 1%.

  7. Great Blog! When I came out to my family, my sister told me she was going to pray every night that God make me straight. I told her that was fine, but I was going to start praying every night that God make her a lesbian.
    She was a bit stunned by my response and said that would not happen. “She was straight and God would not turn her into a lesbian.” I asked her why she thought her prayers were any more powerful than mine. I felt I had about as good a chance of getting my prayers answered as she did.
    I was being completely facetious of course, because she was using her prayers like you said, as a magic incantation.
    “Prayer doesn’t change things. Prayer changes people and people change things”. Having been raised Roman Catholic, these word always rang true with me. I was always intrigued by the mystical and contemplative prayer of St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, mostly because the intent of their prayer was a closer union to God.
    I don’t claim to have all the answers, but it seems to me God is more than a magic genie in a lamp and you get three wishes if you just ask him in the right way. I find prayer more unitive than utilitarian.
    Just my three cents….
    Again, another great blog. I enjoy reading your posts.

  8. Thanks for sharing your experience, Calvin! I know your sister had loving intent behind her words! Glad to know you keep coming back to read. Wish more people understood how prayer is a conversation, a dialog, a relationship and not a way of ordering cosmic cheeseburgers at God’s drive-thru!

  9. bot1 says:

    Great post! We’re right next door to you (Southeastern MA) and have the same problem. May the Lord give eyes to see, ears to hear and mouths to proclaim the greatest news about Himself.

    God bless!