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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.