I’ve written about this before, but every year the issue comes up again when teams are playing for championships. The matter touches very close to home this year with the Chicago Blackhawks battling the Philadelphia Flyers for the Stanley Cup. A friend of mine who grew up in Chicago, is a big Hawks fan, but now lives in Princeton, NJ, not far from Philly, sent me the following, which is about a nun and priest rooting for the Flyers (no problem there) and telling kids to pray for the Flyers and that God will not let them down (problem!!!)
Folks in Chicago have been praying for the Hawks and Cubs to win a championship for a combined 150+ years! So either we are praying poorly, or God has let us down, or God does not take sides in sports based on our prayers. I tend toward the latter. I think it’s great that the nun and priest are cheering on their team and supporting their kids’ excitement. And, in a pure sense, we ARE to pray for what really matters to us. However, when we start to teach things like “God will not let us down” with reference to sports teams and that a victory was “proof” that God hears prayers, I think we’re heading into dangerous territory.
Here’s what I wrote about this subject in my book, A Well-Built Faith:
In fact, we must ask whether we should we pray…
- for rain during a drought?
- for no rain during a parade?
- for teams to win a game?
- for the healing of a sick person?
- for help in passing an exam?
- for peace in the world?
The answer is a resounding, “Yes, yes, YES!” However, we must know what we are praying for and why we pray. We pray for one reason only: to align ourselves with God’s will. In each of these situations, we are praying about something very important to us, seeking to align our will with God’s. No matter how the situation turns out, God intervenes because God is always intervening. Unfortunately, however, we tend to only recognize that intervention when God’s will seemingly conforms to our own will and we proclaim a miracle. Miracles do indeed occur, however Jesus himself pointed out that the greatest miracle is the transformation of a human heart. And so, we pray
- for rain during a drought and if it does not rain, we continue to pray so that we can learn what God’s will is for us during this challenging time.
- for our favorite team to win, knowing that what we are really praying for is that they will play to the best of their ability and the outcome will be decided based on which team is better on that day (God does not decide on the outcomes of games). And if our team loses, we continue to pray to help us accept loss, to learn from it, to grow from it, and to move on with the right attitude.
- for a sick relative who is dying of cancer. Our deepest desire is for that person to be well. And if the person dies, we bow before the mystery of life and death and continue to pray, asking God to help us grieve, to comfort us, and to help us see that death is not the end.
- for help on an exam, not in place of studying, but in order to fully utilize the gift of our minds.
- for world peace because we know that it is God’s will and that any lack of peace is the result of human failure.
In other words, in every situation that we pray, we are seeking to get in touch with our deepest and truest desires, to share them with God, and to align ourselves with his will, which is always for us to draw closer to him.
Having said all that, I “pray” that the Hawks win!!! 🙂