It might surprise you to know that on a typical Fall Friday night in the USA there are young men praying all across the nation. Why you may ask - football. Baseball may be the national pastime for some, but down South football’s almost a denomination. Even though many, like the ACLU (Anti-Christian Liberty Union), have done all they can to ban prayer, it’s still a common practice for most teams before a game. This practice works well to illustrate a salient point concerning prayer.
Some folks say they have lost faith because God doesn’t answer their prayers. Let’s look at two opposing championship playoff teams to find what may be the cause. Playing that fateful day were the A’s and C’s. Both teams consisted of kids that were good kids for the most part. Both teams had coaching staffs that had the normal drive for victory as well as a concern for the youth they led. Both Coaches were Christian.
The coach for the A’s called the team together and said he’d like a moment for a prayer. He said it was okay if anybody didn’t want to pray: they could just observe a moment of silence to the think their own thoughts. The coach’s prayer basically went like this, “Almighty God, we come before you tonight in praise and supplication. We thank You for our health and for the freedoms we enjoy. For all that allows us to be here tonight. We thank you for the talents and skills you have given us. In the strength and glory of our youth let us always remember You. Grant us tonight that we play fair and with honor. We ask that You protect us tonight and that none be hurt; and, that if one is to be hurt, we ask that You use the hurt in way that serves You. For Your Glory Father, let the best team win. Amen”.
The coach for the C’s called the team together for a moment of silence. He said he was going to say a personal prayer, and that any that cared to could join him. His prayer basically went like this, “Heavenly Father, these young men have worked long and hard to be here tonight. They are a good bunch and they listen well. They know what’s expected of them tonight. We know with Your help all things are possible. We ask that You keep us safe tonight and lead us to victory. Amen”.
As you can see there was quite a difference in the way the Coaches approached prayer, as well as how and what they prayed for. The A’s Coach called for a moment of prayer. He placed God before being politically correct. His prayer focused on thanking God for what He had done to bring the team to where they were. He asked that no matter who got hurt or who won, that it served God’s purpose. The B’s Coach started out by playing it semi-safe and being politically correct to a point, by calling for a moment of silence. His prayer focused on what the team had done to get where they were. He, perhaps unintentionally, implied that they deserved God’s help to get what they asked for - safety and victory for the team.
Which one sounds more likely to go unanswered? Now here’s the twist. Both teams had a star player critically hurt. As athletic injuries in football players go they weren’t common, neither were they unknown. The A team player had suffered a concussion and a fractured vertebra. The C team player had had a heart attack. For the A team player it was a matter of an “unlucky” hit. For the C team player it was a matter of the “unlucky” combination of steroids and genetics. Neither injury was fatal – yet.
Over the course of time, both players moved from the ER to ICU and finally into the same regular hospital room. It wasn’t a large facility; and, the thought was that the two young competitors might spur each other on into recovering quicker. Again, over the course of time, the two players exchanged many thoughts. Among those thoughts were God and prayer. The A team player was a Christian and related his testimony to the other. The B team player was not a Christian – yet. The A team player took advantage of having a captive audience and was a good witness for Christ. The C team player came to see that there might be something to this “Jesus stuff”; but, he had a problem.
The C team player related how he had never seen a prayer answered and related the last prayer he had heard – his coach’s prayer the night he got hurt – as proof that God, if He existed, only half listened at best. The C’s had won but hadn’t both of them had been badly hurt. The A team player responded with a query as to who should win if both teams prayed for victory. Should it be the team that played the best or the team closest to God?
As the question hung in the air, the A team player continued and he too cited the last prayer he had heard someone else pray – his coach’s prayer the night he got hurt. The C team had played the best and they had won; and, though they were both hurt it was serving God’s purpose. Weren’t they both drawing closer to God?
Two weeks later the A team player died unexpectedly from an undetected brain aneurism caused by his injury. At his funeral service people complained saying God didn’t listen to prayers - the kid got hurt playing football and died too young. It caused quite a stir when I disagreed and said the kid had lived just long enough for God to answer a prayer - because the kid had lived long enough to lead me to Jesus.
Wow, what a powerful testimony! Sometimes when painful things happen we become so hurt that we fail to see how God works in those painful situations for the good. I bought a bookmark in Washington State a few years ago that had a black hand and a white hand that were connected and it read: "We know not who we touch." It caught my attention and made me reflect for a while on it. Later I thought of this aphorism: "We know not what impressions our touch leaves on the life of others." God uses people to help other people. As Christians iron does sharpen iron. Please continue to follow Christ, encourage fellow Christians and point others to Him!