I keep seeing advertisements for Revive Our Hearts’ Cry Out!, a prayer simulcast “programmed for, and focused on, calling women to come together in groups to pray.” I can’t stop thinking about it — not because I have a bone to pick with this event but because I’m not sure what to make of gender-segregated prayer.
Generally, I have no problem with women coming together as women to pray. Certain topics of prayer lend themselves to a women-only audience. After all, only women can pray for their husbands as wives and for their children as mothers. Women share unique and pivotal experiences that sometimes require women-only spaces to talk about and pray for those situations. For various reasons, some women feel safer coming together in women-only groups, particularly for something as vulnerable as prayer. And I wholeheartedly support some of the promotional slogans for this event, like “Women of God, we need your voice!”
But the thing is, the advertisements for this women-only prayer event are far from women-only. Pictures of Dr. Bob Bakke, Josh Davis, Tony Evans, and Stephen Kendrick made up a third of the speakers listed in one advertisement I saw. Half of the YouTube promos feature well-known men encouraging women to join the simulcast and celebrating female prayer warriors. (I loved the one where the Bentham Brothers called for women to rise up and be Deborahs!)
At this women-only event, which is programmed for and focused on women, men will be speaking. At an event calling only women to pray, men will be up front, center stage, praying. The FAQs encourage men to “gather in their own groups to pray, while the women participate in the Cry Out! simulcast,” but a select few men will be speaking, leading, and praying at this women-only event.
It’s not that I’m opposed to male leaders or mixed-gender groups. I’m just trying to figure out what is the significance of women-only prayer events, particularly when not-women-only are speaking. I’m trying to figure out what, in this event’s eyes, is the value of the “wailing woman” crying out for revival — that is, what significance gender lends to prayer.
In the promo videos, the men casually weave in the importance of women praying with the importance of Christians praying in general, as if there’s no difference between women praying and men praying — probably because prayer is gender-neutral.
Why, I wonder, is it important to this event that 100,000 women pray? If numbers are important, why stop there? Why not try to reach the husbands, brothers, and sons of these women, drawing in more than 100,000 voices crying out to God?
I don’t know how the event organizers would answer these questions, but the whole concept of women-only prayer events seems a little at odds with, a little less powerful than the Christian tradition. The Christian community involves every human, of both genders, every tongue, and every tribe. That is its final form: unity of the nations, unity of the sexes, unity of the classes, unity of humankind itself.
That’s the model we see in Scripture — the community coming together to pray, first with the Israelite families, even the children, standing for hours while the law was read, then when the believers (male and female) were waiting for the Holy Spirit, then at Pentecost, when God’s word was proclaimed and understood in every language present, and now, the regular ol’ church gathering together every Sunday (and Wednesday if you’re evangelical and Saturday if you’re liturgical).
Group prayer is unitive and powerful, which is the whole point of this simulcast. But I can’t help but think how much more unitive and powerful such events would be if they called upon both men and women to pray — especially since, in this case, men will be there, anyway.
How do you feel about gender-segregated prayer?