But asking God to protect you just before entering a fray shown to produce more than its share of snapped tendons, broken bones, wrecked joints, and concussed brains seem hopelessly misplaced if not outright disingenuous. And is there a more puzzling sight than players and coaches kneeling before a broken body on the field to ask God’s mercy and healing, and then resuming what it was that caused the injury as soon as the injured player has been carried from the field?
Should coaches and players pray before football games? Perhaps it all depends on what they pray for. Pray for peace? Not the way the game is played today. Pray that the Lord will help you “play to the best of your ability?” Not if that means you have to dampen God-given, psychological, fail-safe systems designed to protect you from injury. Pray to win? Only if you think God, in his infinite wisdom, wants to bring you the thrill of victory while bringing your opponents the agony of defeat. Pray for the Lord’s protection? Not unless you are willing to set limits on what your coach asks you to do with your body. Pray that God might be glorified by the game? Not unless the rules and strategies of the game are radically altered so that that overused platitude actually means something. Ask that the game will glorify God but only after it has been stripped of its bellicosity, purged of its brutality, and infused with a spirit that, far from challenging the best instincts of Christian, actually fosters spiritual growth.
Let me ask you to consider a series of questions. First, would you sit and watch a flag football game on TV? Secondly, would you pay to attend a flag football game? Thirdly, do you think 100,000 people would gather in a stadium to watch flag football? I asked a friend who is a big football fan those questions. He responded that it depends if there was any other type of football. In other words, as long as tackle football existed, he would not watch or pay to attend flag football. However, if there was no other choice, then possibly he might watch a flag football game. In short, football is famous for its violence, and people enjoy watching it for its violence. It allows them to vicariously let out their pent up emotions; thus, it's popularity. Isn't that why people appreciate hockey? But what does that violence have to do with following Christ? Isn't that actually counter to the values of Christ? That's what Shirl was pointing out.
I loved to play backyard football when I was young. Mostly we played two-hand touch and flag football. If that kind of football was so fun, and I hardly think I would be the only one to say that, then why wouldn't watching professional flag football be just as pleasurable? The beauty and skill of football would still exist, wouldn't it?
Let me make another observation about Shirl's comments. The problem with football and prayer exists in the selfishness of those prayers. Those prayers don't focus on God and his desires, but on one's own selfish desires. Ultimately, prayer is communication between people and God. We have the opportunity to meet with God through prayer. We offer up our desires to God in prayer, but we listen to his desires and let him transform our desires. Thus, we walk away from our time of prayer ready to obey him. We miss out on this concept of prayer not only in football but in many areas of life. Many people have bought a lottery ticket and prayed hoping to win the lottery. Obviously, they did not meet with God in their prayers, since God already communicated in Scripture the lack of wisdom of the lottery. Many students pray that they will do well on a big test as they cram in the last moment. They obviously have not met with God in their prayers, or he would have showed them the value of hard work. I say "Amen" to what Shirl is saying, because we often want God to bless us in our ungodliness, and it just doesn't make sense. Why pray for safety when football is meant to be violent? We actually want it that way.
Enjoy your wrestling.