Should you pray before a game? That may seem like a silly question for sports, rec, and fitness ministers to consider. However, it is a question I would like you to consider in light of an experience I had several years ago. I was playing in an adult softball league of a sports ministry in Charlotte. This softball league was outreach-oriented and the leader and the ministry partnered with CEDE SPORTS for coaching, connecting, and resourcing. At this point in the league, the umpires set the ministry tone for each game. They would gather the two teams on the baselines before the game, review the rules, and pray. In this particular situation, after gathering the teams, the umpire mentioned a couple of personal prayer requests regarding his extended family and some medical issues they were facing. He also brought up another medical concern of a friend of his child. He asked for other prayer requests, to which some players took his lead and asked for prayer about other medical concerns in family or friends. Then, he asked us to bow our heads while he prayed, never mentioning the game we were about to play. Remember, this is an outreach league. Half of the players were not Christians. As he prayed, I opened my eyes to see what the non-Christian players on my team were doing. I wasn’t surprised to find them with their eyes open, looking around, not connecting to what was happening. Soon after this experience, I met with the ministry head to discuss what I heard and saw. We talked about the role of the umpire and ideally what the leader envisioned would happen in fulfilling that role. What the leader envisioned wasn’t the experience I witnessed. The leader hoped the umpires would reinforce the league's mission and then pray about what was about to take place – the softball games. We even talked about what kind of prayers that might include. Prayers where the umpires would - Thank God for the opportunity to play - Thank God for the gifts and talents to use in the play and the joy we experience in doing so - Acknowledging to God the brokenness in all of us in experiencing frustration and anger instead of joy from our play - Acknowledging the source of that frustration - from our efforts to establish our identity from our performance on the field - Asking God to give us the freedom to acknowledge that to him and change us so that we would experience more joy and less frustration and anger, regardless of the results Should you pray before games? I would say, “Yes, but pray in a way that is gospel-centered, where the prayers are about the games before us and our need for the gospel in those games.” Otherwise, we are in danger of praying in a way that reinforces the compartmentalized view of sports where we inject God into our sports, rec, and fitness rather than our sports, rec, and fitness integrated into the gospel. How about praying before a fitness class? If we took this perspective of integrating fitness into the gospel rather than injecting prayer and God into the fitness class, what would be some prayers that would integrate the class into the gospel? Give your answers in the comments.

Posted by Bob Schindler - Community Host at 2024-06-03 15:07:23 UTC