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Christian teen ‘unpacks’ why she takes a ‘safe’ stand on prayer

Should women lead prayer in mixed-gender settings? One teen shares why she doesn't.

Every day, I pray over our girl’s athletics class at the end of seventh period. It’s something I really look forward to after the completion of a hard workout. 

However, when it’s our swim team and it’s a group with both girls and guys, I always decline when asked to lead a prayer. 

Savannah Nelson | Views

Savannah Nelson | Views

Why? It’s something that confuses a lot of people. It has to do with what the Bible says about a woman’s role in a mixed-gender setting, and it is the same reason I don’t go to chapel at school when a female is leading it.

Obviously, I don’t avoid these things like the plague without reason. In 1 Timothy 2, Paul writes about proper order in worship. He says, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing… A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”

OK, so I know that I threw a lot at you right there, but stay with me. I’m going to unpack it one bit at a time and explain what it means for us today.

The first part of this verse is talking about Paul wanting “men everywhere to pray.” Notice, first of all, that it says men, not women. This verse is specific to the guys, not just to Christians as a whole. 

The second part of the passage backs this up, too. In verse 11, Paul instructs the women of the church to learn in “quietness and full submission.” He doesn’t permit a woman to have spiritual authority over a man — a position that wouldn’t be very popular amidst today’s feminist movement.

A lot of people argue that these verses should be disregarded as a cultural tradition of the time. However, the mention of Adam and Eve’s time in the garden points to something greater than cultural tradition. It has to do with Eve’s mistakes, and it cost us, as women, the right to be spiritual leaders, just as it caused us to be stained by sin. Today, we still deal with those repercussions and have to deal with the consequences, even though society has changed quite a bit since that time.

So women aren’t given the biblical authority to lead in the church. What does that have to do with me praying over my swim team? Well, when going back to those same verses, we see that men are to pray everywhere. This is where the controversy comes in — even within the church. I interpret this “everywhere” as, when/where there’s a guy present, he should be the one in spiritual authority. Whether that’s by him being the one to pray or to speak in chapel, I believe it is God’s will for him to be the one in charge of it.

Is this view ultra-conservative? Absolutely. But as for me, I’d rather err on the side of caution than to be turned away at the gates of heaven for taking the scriptures into my own hands. We figure, often, that if we do what we think is right, God will accept it and be pleased with our efforts. The truth of the matter is, this isn’t the case, and not everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved (Matthew 7:21-23). 

God tells us, through his word, what he wants from us and expects us to obey. If we don’t … well, I’m in no place to say what happens next. He’s the judge, and I’m simply trying to obey his will like everyone else. I just know that I don’t want to be on the other end of God’s wrath — and I’d rather be safe than walk the line.

Savannah Nelson, 16, worships with the Prattville Church of Christ in Alabama. She writes for Uncommon Girl magazine and blogs at wordandsunshine.home.blog.

Filed under: gender roles mixed gender prayer Opinion Savannah Nelson Views women and prayer

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