Super Bowl Sunday: What Place Does Prayer Have in Sports?

Super Bowl Sunday: What Place Does Prayer Have in Sports? February 8, 2024

Should prayer be allowed in sports? Courtesy of WUSF

This weekend America and the world celebrate Super Bowl Sunday. The popularity of the Super Bowl continues to soar within America and globally. Yes, this is a football game, but for many non-football fans this is an annual event as Super Bowl parties are held throughout the US. Many fans are hyped up to see the new commercials that are being run during Super Bowl. Some tend to be very creative. All this said, where does God and prayer fit in with the Super Bowl?

Prayer and Sports

I believe that prayer is an essential part of many of the players, coaches, and fans. One of the most visible displays of faith on the field was referred to as “Tebowing”, and was labeled after Tim Tebow kneeling in prayer on the field after a win. Tebow played in the NFL with various teams beginning in 2011. He had a glorious college career including two National Championships with the Florida Gators. While he wasn’t able to replicate his success at the pro level, Tebow did garner a lot of attention due to his visible prayer approach. Tebow’s prayer stance was polarizing with many speaking out in favor of his display of faith, but equally many, especially the mainstream media (MSM) weren’t always as favorable.

Tim Tebow lived his faith on the field – Courtesy of Relevant Magazine

Many players would openly thank Jesus as their Savior when interviewed after the game. A recent interview with CJ Stroud of the Houston Texans became controversial. Stroud was interviewed after his recent win in the playoffs and said:

“First. and foremost, I just want to give all glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,”

This interview became controversial when it was reported that NBC, the station that broadcasted the game, reportedly edited this line out of a social media clip that was posted online. Did they edit this out? We will likely never know for sure, but NBC has a history with editing clips so it could be possible.

What Do Our Faith Leaders Say about “Living our Faith”?

God is very clear in the Bible that He expects us to “live our faith by living the gospel every day. A famous quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

“Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”

Living the Gospel everyday and everywhere is what we are asked to do. Pope John Paul II spoke these words:

Today I believe the Lord is saying to us all: do not hesitate, do not be afraid to engage the good fight of the faith (cf. I Tim 6:12).  When we preach the liberating message of Jesus Christ we are offering the words of life to the world.  Our prophetic witness is an urgent and essential service not just to the Catholic community but to the whole human family.

The Bible says in Romans 1:16:

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Mark 16:15:

15 He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Following Jesus is not easy!

This can sometimes be an understatement. Following Jesus and living our faith daily goes against everything society defines as success today. There are many who do not want to hear or see us live our faith. Jesus tells us in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:11-12):

11  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

As Catholics, we are a lightning rod for blame and criticism in society today, but look at the values society has. Each one is the very opposite of what Jesus teaches and instructs us to do. In a world where abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, cloning, and embryonic stem cell research are supported, we are asked to stand up for life and be the voice of human values. We have seen the backlash against the institutions that stand for the Dignity of Human Life. A society that is all about “me” and what “I” can accomplish is countered by Jesus’ word to put others first. We worship God while society defines success as how much money and nice possessions you own.

We need to stand up for Jesus’ values no matter the cost. There will be fear so let’s pray for courage. The evil one has a great following in society today, but we need to do the hard work and follow the examples of those athletes that live their faith on the field, and the strong Catholics that continue to proclaim Jesus’ words and stand by their values. Following Jesus is hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Besides, the retirement benefits are heavenly. Go Niners.

Comments are not only welcome, but encouraged. I will respond to your comments as quickly as I can.

God Bless

About Dennis McIntyre
In my early years I was a member of the Methodist church where I was baptized as a child and eventually became a lector for the church. I always felt I was a very faith-filled person, but that something was missing. My wife is Catholic and my children were baptized as Catholic and this helped me to find what I was looking for - to be part of something so much bigger than myself walking together with Jesus. I was welcomed into the Catholic faith and received the sacraments as a full member of the Catholic Church in 2004. I am a Spiritual Director, and very active in ministry serving as a Lector and Eucharistic Minister in addition to providing spiritual direction. I have spent time working with the sick and the terminally ill in local hospitals and Hospice Care centers and found these ministries to be very difficult, but extremely rewarding. You can read more about the author here.
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