When it’s ok to pray about football

Note: Yes, I realize I have written a good bit about football lately. It’s football season. It’s on the brain. It will slack up in January. 

When my 6 year-old son, BB, said his prayers last night, he ended with the following:

“And God, please help Bo Wallace with his arm so he can do good in the LSU game.”

I’m sure he was looking ahead to LSU because he knows we are going to Oxford for that game, meaning a visit to my folks’ house (where he and his sister pretty much rule the roost). Obvious answer aside, I asked him why he thought Bo Wallace needed help with his arm.

BB told me, “Well, it must be giving him trouble with all the interceptions he threw in the Auburn game Saturday.”

Bless it.

A change in pattern. 

Wallace injured his shoulder in last year’s football season and he underwent surgery and rehab in the off-season. Wallace’s arm made BB’s prayer list back then, too, so I know he was aware of that.

Going into the Auburn game, Wallace hadn’t thrown an interception all season. Not one in the first four games. Then Saturday, he threw two interceptions. And had six sacks.

Did BB know all these specific stats? I don’t know, I doubt it. He had, however, been paying close enough attention to know that Wallace had been playing pretty well before the Auburn game, and noticed that he had an off-day.

One of his favorite football players had been doing pretty well, then something changed. His solution to all of this was to pray about it. And from the way he said it, it was obvious he felt that would take care of it. It was just that simple.

Sometimes my children’s faith brings me to my knees. It’s taken a while, but I have finally figured something out. God gave me my children so they could teach me things, as much as for me to teach them. And this one little prayer got me to thinking…

Lesson #1: Pay attention to people. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have kicked myself for not seeing what was going on with someone I cared about, all because I was wrapped up in myself and wasn’t paying attention. How many times I’ve said, “I had no idea” or “I should have seen this coming.”

Like the time I didn’t know a good friend was getting divorced until it was final.

Like the time I didn’t realize a family member was seriously ill until I got the call advising me that I might want to go see him, and soon.

That feeling of unwelcome surprise can’t always be avoided, but I often find I have made it worse on myself by either not noticing or ignoring an earlier sign. I would at least better understand the problem, if I had been paying attention all along.

Lesson #2: The response should be helpful, not hurtful. 

I have what’s known as “white coat syndrome” when it comes to blood pressure cuffs. My blood pressure, as a rule, is perfectly fine, with the exception of when a nurse comes at me with one of those electronic blood pressure cuffs on wheels. I am convinced that those machines are of the devil.

The root of all of this stems from the time after I had my first child. Beginning four days after her birth, just before I was about to leave the hospital, my blood pressure spiked unexpectedly during the night, causing a terrible headache. It turned out to be a temporary (and easily controlled) condition that worked itself out within a few months. However, the nurses, out of legitimate concern I’m sure, rolled one of those contraptions into my room about a hundred times over the course of that night and the next morning, slapped the cuff on one arm, pushed a button, and then made horrible faces when was finished. Then they rolled it around to the other side of the bed and repeated the process on the other arm. Again with the horrible faces. Their reaction stressed me out to the point of tears and made me even more afraid, which I’m sure only compounded the problem. When my doctor arrived, he came in, sat down, and talked to me. He calmly told me what he thought was going on, told me what he intended to do about it, and reassured me. Only then did he take an unassuming manual blood pressure cuff out of his pocket, and gently placed it on my arm, and measured it again. The blood pressure was still up, but his caring demeanor went a long way toward calming my nerves and changing my attitude. By the time he left, I had come to believe I was going to be alright even though I sure didn’t feel like it at the moment.

The doctor and the nurses shared the same concern. The difference in their response made a huge difference in my recovery. Same goes for pretty much everyone who’s having an off day, for whatever reason.

Lesson #3: Prayer is the first resort, not the last. 

This should be instinctual, but often it’s not the first thing we think of. Regardless of whether you possess the capacity to actually DO something about a given situation, it is NEVER a mistake to pray first. And during. And after. Pretty much always.

I can hear some of you now, though, saying, “Well, should we really be praying about football?” Depends on what you mean. Technically, I guess you CAN ask for anything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you SHOULD. It’s kinda like with my kids. My daughter can ask me if she can dye her hair green (and by George, she’d BETTER ask first), but it is highly unlikely she will get an affirmative answer, if the request gets acknowledged AT ALL.

So I agree, something along the lines of, “Please let the (insert team here) win”, just for the sake of your own pride, I’m guessing is not really quality prayer material. (Mind you, that’s not to say I have not uttered those words, I’m sorry to say. Sometimes you just get caught up.) Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer as an example of how to pray. (Probably because most humans, like me, need it fed to us in an “application” format. Let’s face it, sometimes things really just have to be spelled out for us, or we don’t get it.) I can’t make this request fit in either the “daily bread” or “delivering us from evil” categories (although arguably, if it’s the LSU game…).

On the other hand, a sincere request for the health and well-being of a young person who happens to be under quite a bit of pressure to perform, and is also looked up to by lots of even younger people (more pressure), in a sport that can and has caused serious injuries to many a player…that, I think, is just fine. And I would hazard a guess that if you asked Bo Wallace (or any of his teammates or coaches), they would tell you that they welcome our prayers.

And those of their 6 year-old fans.

So this weekend, when you’re watching your favorite football team play, join me in taking just a minute to say a prayer for these athletes. They’re not just Xs and Os on a board. They’re students, and they’re someone’s children. They provide us with tons of entertainment, school spirit, and sometimes even inspiration. It’s really the least we can do.

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