Monday, August 07, 2006

Say a little prayer...

Last night I was watching the first NFL game of the season. Well technically it is preseason, but for a football junky like myself this is a minor detail. With only about a minute and a half to go in the game, a backup running back for the Eagles named Bruce Perry was injured pretty badly. He appeared to receive a sideways helmet-to-helmet hit and did not immediately get up afterwards. He tried to move his hand a bit, but it was clear that he was injured, and likely it was a serious injury. As the trainers and doctors rushed onto the field to aid him, the commentators began speaking about how difficult of a time this is not just for the player, but also for his family, his teammates, and even the opposing team. As the seconds turned into minutes that he was on the ground immobilized members of both teams began getting on their knees, and more than a few looked as if they were praying for him. Jason Avant, Perry's teammate, seemed especially upset by the tragedy being played out and was visibly crying while on his knees and lifting his hands to God.

It was at this point that I heard announcer John Madden say something that was on one hand very true, but on the other hand very ignorant. He said, "At times like these first you hope, and then you pray." When I heard this, I was confused as to how to process it. I think my first emotion was amazement. Over the course of the many minutes waiting for the doctors to determine how best to remove Perry from the field, the announcers had more than once mentioned prayer, and for that I was thankful. It is not everyday that we here such prominent men speak about something so reviled in this day and age in such a public context. As I said though, at the same time I realized the ignorance that his comment betrayed. To be fair it is not his ignorance alone, but an ignorance shared by many people. That ignorance is this: prayer is the thing to do when all else fails. It seems as if people follow a flow chart in life that goes something like this:
  1. Try to make it happen yourself.
  2. Try to make someone else make it happen.
  3. Hope that it just happens.
  4. Pray that it happens.
The problem with this is that when we do this it's like we're putting God in some sort of case and saying "In case of emergency break glass and he'll come out and fix it." Or, it's like God is that friend you have that has a pickup truck that you only call when you need to move. That's not how God works. God should not be our backup plan, God should BE our plan. The apostle Paul advises us to "pray continually" or in other words "Never stop praying. Ever." This means that before, during, and after that play Perry, his family, his teammates, and everyone else should have been praying, not just when it seemed they had no other choice.*

Let's not forget to ask ourselves the key question that we should always ask when we encounter a situation like this: "How does this apply to me?" Well, you or I may not be football players, but we all play a little game called life. Like football, life can get a little rough sometimes. Some of us get injured, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. So should we wait until we have no other choice but to pray? Of course not! We should be praying "continually." Pray in your car, pray in your office, pray in bed, pray at the kitchen table, pray on the couch, or even pray in the bathroom! God doesn't care where you pray, he just cares HOW you pray and how OFTEN you pray. Pray honestly. Don't pray in front of other people just to impress them. If you don't know what to pray for, pray for God to show you what to pray for! Pray for our country, pray for your family, pray for our leaders in all levels of government. Pray for the leaders of your church. If you feel like it, you can even pray for me! The point is God asks us to never stop praying, and if we look hard enough there is always something to pray about.

*Let it be noted, just for sake of clarity, that I am NOT saying that Perry got hurt as some sort of punishment from God for not praying continually. There is no way for me to know when he was praying, so I would never jump to any such conclusion.