Nuns Offer Prayers for Spurs – So What?

I’ve run across a story in the last couple of days about a group of Salesian nuns in San Antonio who are praying for the Spurs in the NBA finals. It makes for a fun story but there’s a part of me that bristles.

My personal reaction is, “so what?”

Stories like this pop up every so often. In Chicago, they pop up whenever the Cubs or Bears are in the playoffs…which isn’t often!) The problem is, these stories suggest that nuns have a special connection to God that others do not have. I’m sure there are plumbers, contractors, teachers, bankers, engineers, and firefighters praying for the Spurs as well but there’s no story about them.

These stories also suggest that, through our prayers, we can influence God’s will. Are there not nuns in Cleveland praying for the Cavs? Is it a matter of which group of nuns prays harder? Will God listen to these prayers and decide? Do the nuns in Chicago not pray properly since the Cubs and Bears rarely win? What did I do wrong in 1969, 1984, and 2003 when I prayed for the Cubs to win only to watch them choke in the end?

I know, I’m making far too much of this, but sports stories often provide opportunities for talking about theological issues. Most kids pray for important events in their lives: exams, dates, volleyball games, basketball tournaments, etc. These make for good occasions to talk to kids (and adults, apparently) about what we really do believe about prayer.

Prayer is lifting our minds and hearts to God. When we pray, we do not do so in order to change God’s mind. Prayer changes us. When we ask God for things, it is our way of sharing with him our desires and then listening to God as he helps us order those desires according to his will.

If it is extremely important to us that a certain team win a certain game, then we should pray to God about it, not because that prayer will influence God to decide the outcome of the game in our favor, but to share with God a strong desire we have in hopes that, whatever happens, we may discover his will.

At the same time, I have no doubt that the power of prayer affects how people respond to situations. A sick person can heal faster because the power of prayer is strengthening them. A team can play at their highest level because the power of prayer is energizing them. But thinking that God chooses who wins and who loses based on those prayers is to trivialize both prayer and God.

Finally, back to the nuns. I hope my intro didn’t make it sound like I have something against nuns. I love nuns. “Some of my best friends are nuns!” It bothers me, however, when we put anyone – priests, nuns, brothers, deacons, lay ecclesial ministers – on a pedestal thinking that they have a special connection to God that others do not have. Through baptism, we ALL are members of the Body of Christ. We have different gifts but we are all united to Christ. Ultimately, nuns and priests are trying to teach us this very thing through their radical lifestyle. They are signs to us of what we ALL are called to. Unfortunately, too many people have concluded that nuns and priests are the ones who work at the “God stuff” for us while we are busy living life.

My bottom line? Let’s think about why we pray and what we really believe about the power of prayer. All prayer ultimately comes down to 4 words: “thy will be done.” And let’s honor priests and nuns for the sign value of their vocation but recognize that, in baptism, we are ALL called to the same intimacy with God that their lifestyle boldly proclaims. God is no less present in our living rooms, automobiles, offices, and factories than he is in that convent in San Antonio.

For more thoughts about nuns, visit the blog of my friend and colleague, Sr. Julie Vieira,  who writes at A Nun’s Life.

About Joe Paprocki 2472 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

6 Comments on Nuns Offer Prayers for Spurs – So What?

  1. So true. how often is prayer to God depicted as another form of a ‘genie in a bottle’. it makes me wonder how many people pray to God and expect their ‘wishes’ to be granted; how many people pray with wrong motives and end up ditching God or decide not to believe in Him because of unrealized prayers?
    Prayer really is all about God and HIS WILL for our lives, not about what we want want want. Thank you for this post.

  2. Maggie, you’re very welcome! I like your comment about a “genie in a bottle.” I think that captures what a lot of people think about prayer. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I’m a strong believer that God listens to all prayers with no regard to who is doing the praying. However, I think that we all have to remember that sometimes the answer to our prayer is “No, I have something better in mind for you”.

  4. Another great post, Joe. In addition to the excellent points that have been made about prayer, two things struck me from the article. The first was that they were doing this in part to honor their departed community member who was a huge Spurs fan. The other was the point about how they use something like this to connect with the kids to whom they’re ministering. Kudos to the reporter for bringing that out (in fact I went back and checked to see if it was a diocesan paper). It softens a bit the notion that nuns’ prayers count for more. I can see it as more a witness to community and ministry with a news “hook.” Will more people read it as “magic prayers”? Probably. But that’s why stories like this can make good catechetical moments.

  5. Diane, great catch on those nuances in the story. That does make a difference. That also just goes to show that stories like these provide lots of issues for us to delve into with those we teach. Thanks.

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