Catholic Church urges Montreal Canadiens fans to pray for a playoff berth the headline reads and apparently an ad has been placed in all the French-speaking newspapers in Montreal calling for the faithful to pray for their “home team” the Montreal Canadiens.
“With the playoffs just two months away and the hapless Habs currently in 14th place in their conference, perhaps there’s only one thing left to do — pray. If you were so inclined, then you might find a new ad for the Archdiocese of Montreal a tonic, knowing, perhaps, that God was on your side. The ad, placed in Montreal’s French-language newspapers, lists the current top teams in the league’s Eastern Conference. Then, at spot number eight — the cut-off for the playoffs — it reads: “Let us pray.”
When I heard that this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. I mean I’ve been a long-standing fan of the Montreal Canadiens especially during the “glory” years when Scotty Bowman walked behind the bench as coach and Lafleur was pure magic on the ice. I will even admit, as a sixteen year old girl, cheering on my beloved team, I did on occasion pray for the team to have victory over an opponent. I was convinced then that God was indeed a “Habs” fan, and at least during the 70’s God seemed to listen to my prayers and Montreal did triumph. However, as all Montreal fans now know, it will likely take a miracle for the Canadiens to get into the playoffs, let alone hoist the Stanley Cup this year. So what happened? Did the Canadiens fall from grace? Did God find a new team to bless?
Interestingly enough, although there seems to be a concerted effort to ban prayer in schools, colleges, universities etc., praying before a sporting event doesn’t seem to be frowned upon. I suppose calling on the Almighty to help the home team win is okay, as long as He stays out of the schools the rest of the time.
There was great controversy this year when Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos prayed before and after every football game. Many speculated that he was praying for victory and for many, many games it looked as though God was definitely listening to the young quarterback’s prayers, but when his team lost to the New England Patriots in the playoffs, the scoffers came out to lambast the young man’s faith. Did God suddenly favour the Patriots and then pull His support from them in the Super Bowl and then divinely cheer on the Giants? It is ludicrous.
“If people have been listening to anything that Tim Tebow has been saying, then they know that he never prays to win. He has said that publicly many times,” said the Rev. Brad Strait, senior pastor of Cherry Creek Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Englewood.
“The key is that many people who keep commenting on this situation don’t know very much about why believers pray. It seems that they think the main reason, or even the only reason, that people pray is to ask God to give them things. … It’s that old Santa-Claus-equals-Jesus thing. You mix all of that up with football and this is what you get.” http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/religion-faith18011812/religion-faith18011812/
Now, I’m not Catholic but I did find an official blessing used for athletic events. It’s found in the Roman Ritual (an official book of Church rituals, as the name suggests), and it is published in English in the Book of Blessings (you can find it on pages 437-438 of the current edition).
The introduction to it explains:
1024 This blessing is intended for those who participate in an athletic event. The blessing asks that God may protect the athletes from injury and that throughout the event they may show respect for one another.
1025 The blessing may be given by a priest, deacon, or lay minister.
The blessing includes an athletically-themed Scripture reading (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and a prayer over the athletes.
According to the text:
1029 A minister who is a priest or deacon says the prayer of blessing with hands outstretched over the athletes; a lay minister says the prayer with hands joined.
Here is the actual text of the prayer:
Strong and faithful God, as we come together for this contest, we ask you to bless these athletes.
Keep them safe from injury and harm, instill in them respect for each other, and reward them for their perseverance.
Lead us all to the rewards of your kingdom where you live and reign for ever and ever.
You will note that the blessing does not ask God to help the team win the game, but keep them safe from injury, and reward them for their perseverance. It is a call to good sportsmanship. Win or lose God is glorified.
Let us not lose sight of the real call to pray…salvation! That any who compete, and all who watch, are lead “to the rewards of Your kingdom where You live and reign for ever and ever.”
That is victorious praying!
2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV)
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.