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KELLNER: Author urges prayers for ‘johns,’ porn addicts

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If prayer can indeed move mountains, Anna Broadway, a 34-year-old writer in San Francisco, is focusing hers on a pretty gigantic one: asking God's help on behalf of men who patronize prostitutes and those trapped in pornography's grip.

"I have a burden for men to achieve their potential, and would become the men God made them to be," Ms. Broadway — the name is a nom de plume — said in a phone interview. "I didn't have a boyfriend or a husband involved [in using prostitutes]," she added. "This was just something on my heart."

Never married, Ms. Broadway, whose 2008 book "Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity" (WaterBrook Press), said the notion of praying for prostitution's customers came to her as she prayed about issues of "relational brokenness."

"I asked God how I could pray for men, [and] got the idea to pray for men who pay for sex or are involved in pornography and that sort of thing," Ms. Broadway said. Though few men will openly identify themselves as johns, the continued popularity of the sex trade in all its forms suggests an enduring appeal.

Breaking that cycle could well require an answer to prayer, something "I've seen in my own life," she said.

When she lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., a couple of years ago, "I committed to praying for one block in [the] neighborhood that I walked through. Over course of 15 months, I really saw things starting to happen. ... I would ask people on the block how I could pray for them [and found] more and more openness. People were much more receptive" to spiritual conversations, she said.

Last year, Ms. Broadway — who works solo on the project and its http://www.prayforthejohns.org/ website designated Feb. 12, the Sunday before Valentine's Day 2012, as the day of prayer. After further research, she changed tack for the 2013 event.

"Reflecting on how that event went, it seemed like Super Bowl Sunday made more sense," she said. In 2012, several groups and individuals, along with local authorities, made concerted efforts in and around Indianapolis to blunt prostitution efforts connected with the Super Bowl held there. Years earlier, in 1999, Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson was arrested on charges of soliciting a prostitute the night before Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami, an event that made national headlines.

Reaction from her fellow Christians has been largely positive, Ms. Broadway said: "The pastors that I've shared it with have really liked the idea. Men in particular have really been touched by the idea in many cases. Men are under attack in many cases; there are not many opportunities for women to root for them."

The writer said she'd even heard from someone who identified himself as a prayer target: "I did get contacted by one guy who, apparently, considers himself a 'john,'" she said, and who asserted that the prostitutes he'd hired were not abuse victims.

Statistics suggest otherwise: Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told a hearing of the National Academies' Institute of Medicine last year that his group thinks "at least 100,000 kids are the victims of child prostitution and trafficking each year."

Such victims, Ms. Broadway said, are not just numbers, but individuals. She recalled hearing the testimony of a mother whose young daughter was snatched off the streets of Southern California, raped and forced into trafficking, something Ms. Broadway described as "just surreal."

Even though "the problem of human trafficking in general tends to be overwhelming," Ms. Broadway added, "people want to do something in response."

Ms. Broadway's campaign has garnered some media attention: Christian author and speaker Eric Metaxas mentioned the effort on the national "Breakpoint" radio commentary sponsored by Virginia-based Prison Fellowship. Hundreds have signed up on a Facebook page Ms. Broadway created, promising to participate.

And through it all, Ms. Broadway said she drew inspiration from stories such as the life of John Newton, the British slave-ship captain whose conversion to Christian faith made him an abolitionist and the author of "Amazing Grace," one of the world's best-loved hymns.

So, it may not be too much of a stretch to imagine prayer could well turn the tide against what's been called "the world's oldest profession."

Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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