Friday, October 5, 2007
The Chronicles of Answered Prayer: “Not Guilty”
The Chronicles of Answered Prayer
By Jason Ingram
A “Transparent” Introduction:
This message has been on my heart for about four months now and there is so much in me to get out. As I write this, I am hoping that I don’t explode with all these ideas. I guess I failed to write this work for so long because I felt as if I needed to gain some kind of deeper knowledge and experience about the subject before I felt adequate to tackle such a difficult issue. That also shows my readers that I indeed currently deal with guilt and shame and I have not “arrived” when it comes to living completely and daily free from guilt and shame feelings. This is where I am at in my journey and I hope that the things I have learned will help you in your life of prayer and devotion to God. Be blessed as you read.
I believe this message is so important to the LGBT community, and I hope my readers take it to heart. I also hope that those who oppose my view about gays and the church will see gay and lesbian Christians just as forgiven as straight Christians. What I want to communicate here in this article is that guilt is a very important issue when it comes to answered prayer. Guilt can be something we feel because we have done wrong, however instead of the guilt causing sincere spiritual conviction, there is a tendency for guilt to cause us to run from God as opposed to running to God. We also need to understand different forms of guilt and what shame is and how these all affect our life of prayer.
Guilt and Shame:
I had it explained to me this past summer that guilt says: “I have done something wrong”, while shame says: “I am wrong.” I grew up in an environment where I was praised for what I do (performance) however I felt like I was being put down for who I was. If I feel guilty for something that is not wrong, there is no way to right those wrongs and as a result is a deep rooted feeling of shame. There are other reasons why many of us feel shame including being unwanted and abused, especially sexual abuse.
Shame is a huge hindrance to a confident life of prayer and devotion to God. A believer who has a shame based view of self may come to God with a lot of self-put-downs. This all sounds pious and even impressive when praying in the presence of others, however many times this comes out of false guilt (a guilt that stays, shame) and I suppose I can even call it false humility at times.
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, there is something I will call “false guilt” that is basically like a false accusation that is not dealt with. False guilt can be seen as a feeling of having done something wrong when really there was no wrong done. You may also see false guilt as shame. This can come from by many means. Some of them I will share:
A hyper-sensitive conscience
This describes an ultra-introspective person who always feels a sense of guilt and shame that she or he feels “I need to figure out what bad things I have done and deal with every one of them in order for me to feel OK”
For the lesbian and gay community this is especially important to identify and any of us who were raised in conservative Christianity or who have spent much of our adult life (like me) in churches that preach that it is a sin to be homosexual; as well as pressure form society to be straight
False legalistic teaching
Some churches have extreme doctrines that say things like we have to observe the Old Testament in order to please God, that if a woman cuts her hair she’s “going to hell” (evangelist Jesse Duplantis met a guy one time that actually believed this based on his denomination), some believe they have to drop out of society believing that anything of the world is evil, also, I have been part of a movement of the church that although is positive about healing has a tendency to put pressure on the suffering to have less “unbelief”
The accuser of the brethren
The book of Revelation calls Satan the “Accuser of the Brethren” trying to find fault because he knows that if a believer can get into shame and not pray effectively, that Christian will get way off track (Rev 12:10)
Words of others
This is a major component of producing a shame-based self image, for instance people growing up being told things like “shame on you” on a regular basis
Poor Me, Pour Me A Drink – Shame Based Attitudes:
Basically, shame gets someone to think something like, “no matter how good I try to be, I might as well give up on trying to be good”. Giving up on growing spiritually, giving up on prayer, going to church and church involvement and ultimately giving up on loving others. I will be so bold to say that out of all the reasons why Christians don’t pray, this is probably reason #1. We all have excuses why we don’t pray, but why do we make those excuses in the first place. (Please read the article: Excuses, Excuses)
One of the reasons we fail to pray may be that we feel to ashamed to came to God, or that God will not accept us. The mind is powerful and makes a lot of decisions almost automatically because of the way it has been “programmed”. In this case, a shame based person has clearly been programmed to think that way, and the input can come from many sources including religion. Another contributor to a shame based view of self is self-reinforcement. This is where the individual is accustomed to shame based self talk and like a snowball rolling down a steep hill, the problem escalates.
Several years ago, a Native American recovering alcoholic I used to work for in Oregon mentioned this condition of “poor me, pour me a drink”. We are so beaten up by the world that we beat up on ourselves and ultimately others get hurt in the process. A person in this state must choose where they are going to “hit bottom” and find their way back up. We realize that prayer is not a selfish act, however when you think about it, prayer is the best thing you can do for yourself! Its your way back up. If you feel like you have hit bottom, you are likely to hit even lower, and lower if you don’t do something right now. Prayer is the first place to begin. Prayer allows God to work in your life. You do not have to wait for some kind of supernatural thing to compel you to pray. Take action now to pray and then get the supernatural in your life as a result.
(Photo By Jason Ingram)
Last week, my partner was on his way picking me up from work when he began to pray. Soon after that a CD from the passenger side sun visor slipped out and hit him, and landed right in the center of the console beside him. It was part of a Joyce Meyer message that he needed to hear that moment concerning some issues that the Lord was dealing with him about. It really scared him, until he realized that it was God’s way of getting his attention. Five days later I was praying for him while I was at work, and he had a major breakthrough that day. Prayer truly allows God to move, and even for gay couples!
I can’t tell you how many times that the Lord has delivered me from feelings of guilt, shame and fear. I will randomly open one of my Bibles and I will be at (or near) a passage that I need at the moment. In times like this, the Holy Spirit has taken me to passages like Romans 8:1 or Psalm 32 for instance. Sometimes I go to a passage like Psalm 51 which is about repentance and I realize that I got off into disobedience to something that God wanted me to do or not do. I also go through passages in the Bible that may not apply to me at the moment as well. Please realize that I am not floating around in some super spiritual dimension. On the other hand, I do see evidence of God working in my life, just about on a daily basis, and I am not bragging; its just what a little bit of prayer does (and sometimes a lot!) to a big God.
Shame and Insecurity:
Shame not only separates us from God, but shame can separate us from others. If I feel that something is wrong with me, I will try to act like someone else, which will not cultivate long term relationships, but maybe a few short friendships; or I will isolate myself entirely. When it comes to relationships, shame says “if you really get to know me you will find that I am a bad person so I will either keep you at an arm’s length, or reject you now so I will not have to suffer the pain of being rejected”.
If anyone wants to see if they love God, all you have to do is to see if you love people. The way you see God is similar to how you think others are seeing you. If you think other people see you as being a filthy, worthless, useless, outcast; it will be difficult to come to God with a deep realization of the fact that you are loved, accepted and forgiven. This greatly affects your life of prayer and devotion to God, just as your conversations with others may be strained if you try to operate under a shame-based self image.
Joyce Meyer teaches about how she was (what she calls) “addicted” to guilt. Growing up being sexually abused by her father, she was so used to feeling shame that she was to the point where she believed “I only felt right if I felt wrong”. I can relate. Imagine if you were so used to feeling that you are wrong, that if you were feeling that you were OK would seem like a far fetched, foreign feeling that somehow made you into someone that is arrogant or self-righteous?
I want to tell you that just being lesbian or gay does not make you wrong, just as being a man or a woman makes you somehow less than others, or some kind of a mistake. Even an unplanned birth is no “accident” like some children and adults feel. We are all special to God, and we all have a purpose in life.
If there is false guilt, is there such thing as “good” guilt? Sounds strange that there could be a true guilt if guilt is something that we don’t want in our lives. Look at it this way: What if every judge in the whole world decides that all guilt is bad and therefore pronounces everyone as innocent without any consequences of anyone’s harm they have done?
There is an umpire inside of us that declares whether something is right or wrong: our conscience. A conscience is not Jiminy Cricket, but if you want to use that picture, I suppose that may help to understand how this works. Hollywood sees this process as an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other. Although it may feel that the struggle to decide right from wrong is likened to that picture, I see it quite differently. I see it as several forces at work in our decision making process:
First, there is our flesh: self... our mind... our own wants and even needs. This can also be explained in the context of a Christian who has truly experienced the cleansing and regeneration through the new birth in Christ as having a new nature, and an old nature like I am explaining here. This stubborn old self needs to be disciplined and controlled through spiritual growth and sanctification. Have you ever tried to walk a big crazy dog and had it walk you instead of you walking the dog? After the dog is trained to obey you can keep it more under control, but it takes time and work. Our “carnal” nature needs to be tamed as well.
Another force at work is the demonic element. There is an invisible world that wants to influence the minds of all of us to harm ourselves and others. What may start as a suggestion or an idea may evolve into a driving obsession to so a particular thing that is ultimately destructive. It sounds simple-minded, however I think this makes sense: If there is a devil, wouldn’t he try to deceive the guilty into thinking they are righteous and the righteous into feeling like their guilty? Both attitudes produce some kind of harm to the human race and both attitudes (of self-righteousness and false guilt) bring both kinds of people into doing what is wrong.
The positive forces at work start with the human spirit, the conscience and the Holy Spirit. I see the conscience as being simply a work of the human spirit. A reborn believer in Christ will have their spirit alive to the Spirit of Christ, and will have a quickened sensitive conscience, being ever careful of being an example of love and not of self.
The greatest force on our side is the Kingdom of God. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit working along with heaven’s angles are working to gently prod us into doing what is right. If faced with a moral dilemma, the believer should call upon the name of the Lord for help. Prayer can be a great way to make good choices.
Simply stated, conviction is what some call the “still small voice” of the conscience saying gently and lovingly “you are guilty” of what ever the transgression was and always provides a way out of the guilt. Condemnation is when there are feelings of fear and shame that there is no way out of the guilt. (Rom 8)
Pattern of guilt
Guilt will produce shame if not dealt with
Shame will produce feelings of rejection and abandonment because of the outcome having to do with isolation from a protector (parents, authority and even the way God is perceived)
Rejection, abandonment and isolation will always produce fear (separation form the protector, in this case the way someone sees God)
Fear will produce anger as a desperate insecure attempt to control one’s environment so they won't get hurt
Anger will ultimately end up as anger toward God
You show me a person that is angry at others, I will show you someone who, without even realizing it most of the time, is blaming God. Blaming God for apparently “allowing” others to abuse, mistreat, hurt and use. Angry at God for apparently not being there to protect and even purposely cause bad things to happen. Many people, even sincere folks whether Christians or not live in this angry state of mind. This hardness of heart blocks the touch of God from their lives. If this is you, there is hope.
Too Good To Be True:
So whether someone is guilty of doing wrong, or simply feels wrong, guilt can, and must be dealt with. One way many people deal with guilt is to simply deny it. Yes, denial. As silly as it sounds, I am amazed how many sincere educated men and women think that all they need to do in order to overcome these feelings of guilt is to resist the feelings of guilt and somehow rid themselves of it. Like many other feelings, guilt can be seen as a warning light on your car’s dashboard, simply telling you that something needs to be fixed. You have a choice to either “fix” the dashboard, or go to the real cause of the problem.
Perhaps the reason why so much of the world walks around with such a guilty conscience is that they have never made the connection to God and received a spiritual cleansing and pardon. I believe that the death sentence that we deserve was paid by the torture and death of Christ. Simple belief, in this great exchange of punishment and acting on that belief results in what I call the “New Birth”. If you have already received Jesus into your live, and given the Christ your heart to cleanse and renew, you are seen by God as clean, and you can come to the Lord in prayer without any shame of who you are.
If you have not ever given yourself to this new birth in Christ, the best way is to do this in prayer. Jesus paid your penalty and took your guilt, in order that we can have access to God’s loving presence, God’s healing power for our body and soul, provision for our needs and to fill our joy; and life eternal. This is the only thing I know of that sounds “too good to be true” that actually is!
Pray to God in the name of Jesus, that you give your life, dedicating yourself to God. Not sure you believe or have enough faith? If you simply agree that Jesus loves you and accepts you right now, and that Jesus is God who came to earth to make this way for all people to have life, that is faith my friend. You may not feel anything at first. The more you spend time with God through prayer and study of the Holy Bible, you will be amazed at how real God will be to you. I guarantee it.
Pray today that you be cleansed from all guilt. Then get up, thankful that you are made pure, cleansed and forgiven. It is so much easier to live a pure life when you are first made pure. Its not about you trying to become holy by being good; its about God making you holy first, so out of God’s love and goodness put in you, that from the supernatural outflow you may shine God’s love and joy – being a living example of the message of Christ.
I encourage you to take action in order to walk free from guilt and shame. There is hope and healing for everyone. I hope that the more the gay and lesbian community can learn to overcome shame, that we can draw closer to God and pray for the needs of our people.
My partner and I try to spend time reading the Bible and praying every day. We also like other Christian materials and other resources that help us to grow like group and individual therapy and at times couples and pastoral counseling.
Thank you for taking the time to read this message. If I helped you an any way, please email me at my gaypray gmail address and let me know. I would love to hear from you!
Here are some tools for overcoming guilt and shame from the Holy Bible:
1 John 1:9 (New International Version)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (Amplified Bible)
Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!
"River of the Redeemed"
Oil pastels on panel, by Jason Ingram