Archive for Sunday, March 18, 2012

Faith Forum: Is it wrong to pray for your favorite basketball team to win during March Madness?

March 18, 2012


The Rev. Jeff Barclay, lead pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:

Of course it is.

I think of the oft-quoted statement of Abraham Lincoln, “Let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.”

God has purposes much higher than winning or losing — such as revealing himself to mankind. Win or lose there are life lessons to be learned!

I’ve been a coach and I pray with my teams. But I pray for things like an injury-free contest and that both teams would compete to the max of their abilities.

Once after praying, a high school cross-country runner came up to me and said, “Coach, when you pray it sounds like you know Jesus. I mean, like he’s your friend or something.” So I told him how Jesus could be his friend too. That is why I pray.

Back in the day I was a college runner. After becoming a Christian I had developed a pre-race ritual. I would do the jog-strut that most runners do at the starting line just before a race, flip the silver cross that I wore behind my neck (under my Samson-like locks) and say a quick prayer. One time I went to do this little ritual and realized that my cross necklace was still in the locker room. I panicked; “I can’t run without my necklace.” That was when I realized I had relegated my cross necklace to an idol-good luck charm. I haven’t worn a cross since that day, but I still pray.

And in the end, let’s face it: some teams don’t have a prayer during March Madness — unless they are Bradley, Bucknell or Virginia Commonwealth...

— Send email to Jeff Barclay at

The Rev. Mitch Todd, associate pastor, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt.:

Wrong? Of course not! GO KU!!!

Ahem. Seriously, though, it’s not wrong to pray for your team. Pray your guts out. Pray for your team to win the Big Dance. Pray for certain other teams to fail. Pray for 100-point games and last-minute thrills. Just don’t expect any of that to accomplish much of anything.

Here’s the thing about prayer: How could there possibly be a kind of prayer that is “unacceptable”? Prayer is the conscious turning of your soul toward God. It’s an attempt at communication with God, which is something God longs for us to do.

God wants to hear every prayer in your heart — the “deep” ones and the “frivolous” ones. It may sounds sacrilegious, but even angrily turning toward the heavens and shouting in anger at God could be considered a prayer. At the very least, you’re communicating. Just not particularly effectively.

Selfish prayers go unanswered because they come from a limited perspective. The best kinds of prayers involve being part of God’s Big Picture: Listening to God. Thanking God. Saying things like “thy will be done” rather than what may be our own short-sighted longings.

The best kinds of prayers are the ones that take part in compassion, in the unfolding of God’s love on the Earth. These are the kinds of prayers that get the best answers, a little bit here and there, all around us, all the time.

So go for it. Get on your knees and give it your best shot. If the best you can muster this week is a prayer for a little ball to go in a little hoop, so be it. God will be glad that at least you called but would probably prefer a follow-up when you’re not quite so distracted.

— Send email to Mitch Todd at


FloridaSunshine 6 years, 3 months ago

Reverend Jeff and Reverend Mitch...

I thoroughly enjoyed what each of you had to say! I think most of us Christians realize by now that God isn't rooting for any certain least, I HOPE most of us realize that.

Your idea, Reverend Jeff, praying for things such as an injury-free contest and that both teams would compete to the max of their my opinion, would be the type of prayer our Lord honors. I know many Christian athletes (sorry, you all, I don't know any other religious system athletes, except atheists and agnostics and they don't pray...) who pray before each game to do their best and to let the glory of any performance (deemed by the public to be exceptional) go to the Lord. These are young men and women who all know what their gift(s) in life are...and they use them to the best of their abilities to honor the One who gifted them.

My granddaughter is in third grade and is already using her gift of art (drawing/painting) to honor her Lord...her art teacher entered one of her works in a competition (we had no idea!). Allison casually mentioned it at dinner one evening and was quick to mention that competing against older kids through the eighth grade meant she still has a lot to learn and this competition is teaching her heart and her ambitions to "rest in the hands of Jesus". Could I have even verbalized that at age eight?? We can learn SO much from these younger ones if we'll just allow ourselves to do so. (Out of almost 200 entries from several counties in their state, there was a 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place, and one Honorable Mention.) Allison won the Honorable Mention!! Did we celebrate? Oh, yes!

By the way, she's also an up-and-coming golfer, loving her first summer golf camp back when we realized at age five that she had her mother's perfectly beautiful swing, one uncle's power in those swings, another uncle's precision at putting, and her great-granddad's tenacity. The most beautiful part about Allison is, as you are watching her use her gift(s), you realize she knows the One who will be standing beside her the rest of her life, through all the ups and downs, the joys and the disappointments. And she'll have that great big gorgeous smile on her face through it all because she knows her life is in her Lord's hands.

As Reverend Jeff quoted one of my all-time heroes, Abraham Lincoln, “Let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God’s side.” A little child can teach us that...if we allow ourselves to be taught...

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 3 months ago

Sure, you can pray all you want. I doubt that some unknown diety is sitting there on top of the opponants basket to deflect goal shots.

This reminds me of one of the more outrageous acts of General Georgie Patton when he sent for a chaplain to write a prayer for good weather so he could defeat the Germans. The chaplain was suitably offended that the general would ask God to present him with good weather so he could kill more enemy soldiers.

I think that the diety who created all this universe has better things to do instead of worrying about some silly game where people run around in their underwear with a round ball to see who can toss it in a hoop more often that the other similarly clad people (of a different color of course). This question is silly, absurd and frankly, don't you have things to think about other than whether your "god" will scrunch the other tream???

P Allen Macfarlane 6 years, 3 months ago

You folks clearly have too much time on your hands!

windjammer 6 years, 3 months ago

God is by far more interested in NASCAR.

Bob Forer 6 years, 3 months ago

What an absurd question. Prayer for a sports victory? An outrageous and deluded waste of time. I am sure hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the people killed by the nazis, many of them Jews, prayed for their life, but to no avail. Countless soldiers have been killed in artillery barrages despite prayer. The list is endless. If this so-called god didn't intervene then, why in the world would he intervene in a basketball game?

I can't believe that a rational and intelligent human being could pose such a question and keep a straight face.

Abdu Omar 6 years, 3 months ago

God has power over all things and He does things for the best. You who refuse to believe are the ones that need the prayer the most, but there is more to a game than winning it. There are lessons to be learned, a chance to come to grips with your shortcomings, and a chance to show your character in a win or a loss. There are many things in the heavens and earth that are not considered at all, but God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, knows them all. Someday you might learn of His attributes.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.