Does God really care about sports?
Does God get involved in sporting events when people pray for a win… people who are participating, watching on TV, or who have a little bit of cash riding on the game? I read an interesting FaceBook exchange the other day from a teenage girl who was claiming that Denver was winning because God was willing them to win in order to vindicate the faith of Tim Tebow. I really hope that is not true, and I don’t believe it is. First of all, Tebow’s faith does not need vindication. All evidence points to the reality that Tim Tebow is a sincere Christ follower and that’s a good thing. Second, what about all of the sincere Christ followers who were on the other side playing in the game or praying for a win?
I will admit, I don’t pray asking God to help my sports team win. I will also admit that when I see an athlete after a game saying that God is the one they need to thank for winning, it grosses me out a little bit. As a Christian I believe that God sustains every single breath I take; that God holds the universe together from the level of astrophysics to quantum material. If we took the Tebow mentality we’d have to spend every moment saying thank you for that last breath, and for holding us together, & it would be impossible to get things done. I don’t think God gets involved in the outcome of sports contests – but what do I know? My hunch is that much of the Tebow phenomenon is really the practice of magic. He prays for the field goal to go through, promising to give God the glory in his post-game interview. It works, they win, he does… that’s not faith, that’s conjury.
I watched this short documentary on ESPN last night walking through the Broncos/Patriots game where Tebow was mic’d up the whole game. Just before the final drive he was sitting on the bench singing, “Lord, I lift your name on high.” It’s a fine song – a bit old I’ll admit – but whatever. I realized he was simply using it as a meditation tool to stay calm and relaxed before he went back into the game. I don’t think we should have a problem with that. I meditate with the Jesus prayer, an Eastern Orthodox Prayer which goes, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” You say the first phrase as you breathe in, the second phrase as you breathe out. It’s like breathing in the presence of God & breathing out our brokenness. For me it’s a cool contemplative practice gleaned from the mystics centuries ago that I have adopted as a means of constant prayer. I say this prayer several hundred times a day. I say it alone in the car, when I wake up in the middle of the night, when I’m waiting in line at the grocery story – it is where my consciousness goes when I’m at rest. But I bet it would gross people out if they knew about it, so I keep it private.
So Tebow goes to bad 1990’s worship songs? It’s essentially the same thing. The problem comes when he does it while he’s mic’d up on national TV. Or is it a problem? I don’t know for sure, but I do know Matthew warns us, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them… do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in synagogues, and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” So I wonder if the SNL skit has a little more truth to it in that regard. Maybe Jesus would say, “Take it down a notch, will ya buddy?”