The regular season of Providence Friars basketball ended last Saturday; after a remarkable end of season push (six wins in a row and counting), the Friars play in the Big East tournament this week, then will wait anxiously next Sunday to find out were they will be playing in the NCAA tournament. All of the teams in the Big East have a religious affiliation, most of them Catholic. There is a Dominican friar in a white robe lurking around the Friars bench at every game; one can find a Vincentian (St. John’s, DePaul), Augustinian (Villanova), diocesan priest (Seton Hall), or Jesuit (Marquette, Creighton, Georgetown, Xavier) hanging out near the opposing bench.
I’ve often wondered about the efficacy of praying for one’s sports teams; that’s a particularly interesting issue when sport fans of faith have team allegiances that conflict. When the Friars beat the Villanova Wildcats on their 五福彩票6688下载 court ten days ago, did that mean that God likes Dominicans more than Augustinians, at least for that afternoon? Does the fact that the Friars beat the Golden Eagles of my alma mater Marquette twice this season mean that the Jesuits are in the divine dog house? Of course not. I have no doubt that God is a huge sports fan—I have no interest in going to heaven if there is no Division One-quality basketball there. But God doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t answer sports prayers (except in 2004 when the Red Sox came back from three games behind to defeat the Yankees).
On the morning of Super Tuesday, I noticed an interesting, similar phenomenon on Twitter and Facebook, something that I noted in a Facebook post that morning:
On social media today, I have encountered various people praying for the nomination and election of Bernie Sanders, the nomination and election of Joe Biden, and the reelection of Donald Trump. It will be interesting to see which God listens.
In addition to several dozen “HaHa” emojis, in response I received a number of brief insights from people who had the time to comment.
- God is not their genie in a bottle
- It’s kinda like watching two opposing Catholic school sports teams just before a game.
- God is probably just sitting back with a bowl of popcorn and watching the fun.
- I feel like this is one of the first things wee Christians are supposed to learn? That it is Thy will, not my will, be done?
I completely agree. But there are many people of faith who actually believe that their prayers and petitions make a difference in election results. Many evangelical Christians believe that Donald J. Trump was God’s choice for the Presidency in 2016, also believing that this country五福彩票6688下载 is due for some divine displeasure if he is not reelected this November.
Many of us are accustomed to that kind of foolishness from the Christian right. What caught my attention most on Super Tuesday morning was a meme on a Christian left Facebook site. It said:
We need to pray for Bernie’s
nomination and the November
election!!!Something about this rubbed me the wrong way, and I immediately commented
No we don’t. We need to embrace the freedom that God created us with, then use it to create the world of justice, peace, and connectedness that the Gospels charge us to create. Our prayers need to be actions, not words sent heaven-ward. Praying for our favorite candidate is no better or different than saying “my thoughts and prayers are with you” to those suffering pain and loss.
That comment got me temporarily banned from commenting or posting on the site; it also inspired a message from the site administrator wanting to know why I was “talking down” to the person who had posted the meme about praying for Bernie. After an attempt to further explain my position, I assured him that I wouldn’t be back. It’s the first time I’ve ever been banned from a liberal site—works for me!
The attitude I expressed in my comment is one that I have held for some time, a perspective that became more sharply focused as I worked on my new book on prayer over the past couple of years (link at the bottom right of this page!). Prayer is not transactional. Prayer is much more about actions than words. Prayer is something to be rather than something to do. Prayer is hard. Although I do not include it in the book, a passage from Joan Chittister has influenced my thought a great deal concerning prayer and related matters over the past several years:
Having made the world, having given it everything it needs to continue, having brought it to the point of abundance and possibility and dynamism, God left it for us to finish. God left it to us to be the mercy and the justice, the charity and the care, the righteousness and the commitment, all that it will take for people to bring the goodness of God to outweigh the rest.
As I often say in this blog, human beings are the way that God gets into the world. If you believe that a certain candidate for President is the most likely, of the available options, to help create a framework in which the world that Chittister describes is possible, then far more than simply sending a few words heavenward are required of you.
As people of faith, we have been charged with helping to create the kingdom of heaven on earth. The upcoming Presidential election, as well as all of the down-ballot contests, are important pieces of this puzzle. God is not voting, nor is God actively involved in the process. That’s our job. That’s your job. That’s my job. Let’s get to work.