Pop Culture Prayer Room: A fight for the stars who wish they weren’t

I’ve been using this time every week asking you to pray with me for celebrities. People in the spotlight who need to know Jesus, who most people (Christians in particular) end up reaming instead of believing for. People who, if we could only see God change their hearts and lives, could have culture-shifting impact on our nation.

Well this weekend I was at World Mandate, and I was challenged by the reality of a different kind of spotlight. A spotlight that’s making more money, and more movies and magazines than is the main stream media we usually talk about on Tuesdays. A spotlight whose “stars” are often placed there against their will, enslaved for the pleasures of millions. 

Our pastor Jimmy Seibert gave a convicting and powerful message on what could happen if we would just say no to pornography. If we took a stand that reduced the demand for it, how many of those enslaved could be set free? What if we said no, and what if our no was their hope?

At the end of his message Jimmy challenged men to lead out in drawing a line forever against their contribution to human trafficking when they view pornography. He invited them to come down and surrender it all to Jesus, and friends, I was not prepared for the power of what happened next. I stood there in the aisle as men flocked down to the floor. Dozens that turned into hundreds of them filled the aisles, on their knees and bowed down to Jesus.

And as our male leaders prayed over these men, Jimmy asked women who needed prayer to raise their hands so that others could gather around them. I had to literally climb over the hundreds of bowed down men to get to some of these women and pray with them. And as I played this sort of heavenly game of leap frog I was just undone. I thought, “This is revival.”

Something was shifting in that moment, and as men and women were being set free, trafficked victims were being set free. It was one of the most powerful things I have ever been a part of. And yet there is still much to be done. 

Normally on this day I just leave you with some prayer points. Today I want to leave you with some action points, believing that you will pray along with them. All of it together might take you five minutes, and in that time, you’re contributing to the freedom of millions.

1. Go to the UnBound website, watch the #no4hope video and read this brief description of what we’re doing to urge the US government to place tighter restrictions on internet pornography.

2. Sign the petition 

3. SHARE IT! One tweet, instagram or facebook post could lead to hundreds of signatures. When you share, use the hashtag #no4hope. 

Pop Culture Prayer Room: How do we pray for murderers?

Photo cred: cnn.com

Photo cred: cnn.com

When I think about the man we’re praying for this week, I can hear the voices of sports fans (and everyone else, actually) echoing something like, “here we go with just another one of those thug athletes.”

A few months back, sports news was plagued with the story of Aaron Hernandez, tight end of the New England Patriots, shooting a friend (Odin Lloyd) several times to his death. He’s been in jail ever since, awaiting a trial with six charges against him. His arraignment is this Friday, and from there a jury trial date will be set. This whole situation kind of has potential to be the O.J. Simpson trial all over again. If convicted, it’s likely that Hernandez faces life in prison.

My heart breaks over every aspect of this story. It breaks for the family and friends of Odin Lloyd, who was obviously mixed up with a bad crowd that ended up costing him his life. My heart breaks over the example guys like this are setting for young men aspiring to be NFL superstars. My heart breaks for Aaron Hernandez, who must be a disturbed individual to do what he did that night.

Rolling Stone did a really extensive story on the whole thing, walking readers through what happened that night, and also through Hernandez’s life that led him up to that point. There was this one line that stopped me, and I read it two or three times before I continued with the story. It said, “There was such hunger in that kid for a father’s hand, and such greatness itching to get out…”

Hernandez lost his dad when he was 16, and according to anyone who knows him, that’s when rebellion began and thing spiraled out of control.

Is this an excuse for murder?

Absolutely not. But this gives me a great grid for how to pray for him. “God, let prison be the place that he learns he may have lost his dad, but he has a Father in you. No multimillion dollar contract can hold a candle to the inheritance you intend for your children to have in eternity, and not even a man behind bars for life is too far gone to take hold of the inheritance you have for him.”

What if redemption wasn’t out of the question for him? What if we prayed in such a way that we believed that?

And what about all the other broken hearts connected to this story?

I’m praying for the family and friends of Odin Lloyd who lost a friend, son and brother in the blink of an eye. Lord give them peace, let justice be served for the loss of his innocent life, and after that let grace rule in their hearts and not bitterness.

I’m praying for the broken, lost family of Aaron Hernandez to find the Healer so that they can find healing that will last.

I’m praying for the next generation of young athletes to become the Godly men and women that I want my children to look up to. Which means I am also praying for the local church to begin to influence the influencers.

As soon as this trial begins, there will be people saying all kinds of awful things about it. We have an opportunity to fight that in the spirit. Should we pray for justice? Yes. Should we believe that Aaron Hernandez can get what he deserves and still receive grace? You better believe it.

Pop Culture Prayer Room

I haven’t called Google or anything, but I would be willing to bet that in the last 36 hours, “Miley Cyrus VMA performance” was one of, if not the top search on the web. Everyone is talking about it, and most people (especially those in Christian circles) are outraged over it.

And if it wasn’t Miley’s performance, it was Lady Gaga in a thong, or Macklemore’s gay rights anthem that earned a standing ovation. (And rightfully so, he’s a lyrical genius and that girl that sings on that song with him has serious pipes!) At the very least you heard someone say something negative about how all the guys from NSYNC got fat.

What kind of blows my mind about the response to artists like the ones performing at the VMAs from the Christian culture as a whole, though, is that we act like we don’t expect lost people to act like lost people.

You know they were performing on the MTV Video Music Awards, right? It wasn’t the Dove Awards.

I wasn’t actually watching yet when Miley performed (I turned the TV on just in time for Justin Timberlake — phew!), so I watched it on Youtube later. Did I see something that morally made my insides crawl a little? Yes. But more than anything I was just kind of sad for her.

I wonder what goes on in a heart that acts out that way. I wonder if anyone has even asked. I wonder if she’s just numbing a whole lot of pain — she’s obviously crying out for something. Maybe I’m extra sensitive to it in her case, since we grew up in the same town and had mutual friends in high school. It seems like she should have turned out … different.

And I wonder if any of those people I knew in high school that know her still talk to her. I wonder if they’re among the millions of people posting nasty things about her. I wonder if there’s anybody actually believing for her life and contending for her soul in Heaven.

Why do we feel entitled to talk about celebrities like they aren’t real people? What if that was your sister, or your best friend? Wouldn’t it weigh on you a little differently?

I started thinking about this a few months ago when I was talking about going to see Beyonce in concert and someone brought up that her “Sasha Fierce” alter ego was demonic. I don’t really think that’s true, and I kind of think the whole “all of hip-hop is in the illuminati” conspiracy theory is stupid, but it got me thinking about the way we talk about celebrities like they’re so disposable. And the way we treat them like they’re untouchable, whether we put them on a pedestal or a guillotine. It seems like we’re either worshiping them or wishing death upon them.

We don’t even give them a chance to be better. We put them in the “unsaveable” category and somehow that makes it ok to say awful things about them.

Here’s the reality: they’re in the spotlight, so we’re going to talk about them. We’re going to think about them. We’re going to see their faces plastered on magazine covers every time we check out at the grocery store.

But what if we started talking to Jesus about them? What if no one else is? Maybe we could be hopeful for them where everyone else is hateful.

So I’m taking action. Once a week, this space is turning into a prayer room for celebrities. Artists matter, you guys. They shape the culture that we live in. Their work infiltrates our lives, so we might as well invest back into theirs.

It seems appropriate to start with Miley.

  • I’m praying that she gets tired of searching for pleasure and thrill in the world and finds the wild adventure she was made for in Jesus.
  • I’m believing for the people she needs in order to walk out in that to find their way into her life.
  • I’m asking God to preserve her life even in the midst of rebellion, because he made her for something in his kingdom. Nobody is a mistake.

Will you join me?