Yesterday, the Lakers celebrated winning the NBA Championship this year. Throughout the season, fans across the globe willed their players to success. In the finals, Boston fans and Los Angelinos each rooted for their team to win and make one more step toward being a champion. A common thought expressed at that time is, “God’s too busy on other important things. I can’t pray about sports, can I?”
Often people recognize a basketball, football, baseball or hockey game as just a game and assume that prayer would be a frivolous act. Then the question becomes, when should I pray? Are their some sort of rules dictating what is appropriate or inappropriate prayer time?
What is prayer?
According to Dictionary.com and it’s many sources, to pray means, “to offer devout petition, praise, thanks, etc., to (God or an object of worship)”. With that in mind, let’s check what the Bible refers to as prayer.
Prayer is mentioned within scripture 365 times . There are references to people who prayed to the God of the Bible and there are times people pray to their own gods or the gods of their land. Whoever is doing the praying and regardless of what the prayer is, it seems to be a discussion for which we can clearly hear or participate with one side of the conversation.
Prayer is an expression of the thoughts and desires of a person whether they are shared out loud or kept within the heart. The questions, concerns, joys and hopes of people are communicated through prayer. The Bible refers to prayer as calling on God or groaning to God or even crying out to God because in the same way children prod their parents for answers and still receive love, we can approach God with various tones and attitudes.
Within the scriptures, we also get exposed to God’s side of the conversation.
How does God answer prayer?
Occasionally, the Bible reveals God’s response to the petition, praise or thanks. There are times He responds affirmatively, as in Solomon’s request for wisdom. His answer can be a negative. When Abraham wanted the town of Sodom saved, ultimately God did not save it . Every now and again it seems as if God isn’t answering. Take for example the people of Israel when they were in Egypt and had become slaves. In Exodus 2:23 we see that the people groaned to God and He heard them, but it seemed as if He wasn’t responding because an obvious answer was not instantaneous. It is fair to assume that sometimes God’s response to prayer is, “not yet”.
One guideline for prayer is found in James 4, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Why should people pray?
Ultimately the reason to pray is a recognition of God’s power and our weakness. We pray because we realize that God is strong enough to accomplish anything and we are not. We also learn that success comes when the biggest kid on the block is our best friend. God is the biggest kid on the block.
Prayer is an act of submission. It is a willingness to put the goals of Christ above and beyond our own ideas. We don’t tell Him what to do, since we have not authority to attempt such a thing. We seek His approval.
What prayers are acceptable? What about the Lakers?
Perhaps it is better to ask, what conversations can a person have with their best friend? What are the boundaries?
God longs to be our best friend, He reveals His love for people throughout the scriptures especially in John 3:16. He wants to have the kind of open relationship we have with our best friend, not the perfectly poised conversations we have with our employers. When building that type of friendship, people know that relationships are based on sharing joys and sorrows and fun. Phone conversations with best friends can include topics of family, job, other friends, our frustrations of the day, the things that make us laugh, etc. The better the friend, the more detailed the conversation.
If prayer is a conversation with God, where we can call on Him and really share our joys and sorrows?Wouldn’t He like to be part of the game that holds our attention so completely for three hours straight?Wouldn’t He care about that thing we focus our attention on for 8 to 9 months out of the year?
God cares not only for us and our lives, but also for those players and the teams of people supporting them and all their energies poured out daily to lift the orange ball into the hoop. Because of this complete love, we can go to Him whether it’s a Celtics and Lakers battle or a team you’ve rooted for throughout the soccer cup journey. We also realize His ability to make wise choices and submit to whatever the ultimate result is. That’s what prayer is all about.