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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is it OK to pray that my team (or my candidate) will win?

Is it OK to pray that my team will win, or that my candidate will win a political office, or a job, or an Oscar, etc.?

Well, God knows our hearts, and if that sort of outcome is one of our top desires, then we might as well pray it, because He knows. But perhaps praying of that sort isn't wise, and perhaps we should have more God-centered top desires.

The outcome we desire may not be the one that God wants. 

Here are some possibilities:

1) Perhaps God calculates which team is most deserving -- has practiced harder, prepared more thoroughly -- and awards a win to that team. Only God could do that. Does He? Who could know that? Would it be necessary for God to award the victory? Most of the time, the more deserving team would have won without divine intervention. Maybe the team that hasn't practiced and prepared so well has better players, and God counts that as most deserving.

2) I doubt very much that God adds up the number, length, and fervency of the prayers for team A, and the same for team B, and makes sure that the team with most prayer behind it wins. Only God could do that, but I really doubt that He does so. Prayer in the New Testament, and throughout the history of the church, shows little or no hint of that sort of prayer.

3) Perhaps God doesn't really care who wins.

4) God may have some particular outcome(s) in mind that we know nothing about. For example, a player might be injured, and, as a result, cease being an athlete, and enter some sort of Christian service. A player on the winning team may glorify God in a public way, influencing others, because of a win. Or a player (or coach) may be humbled as the result of a loss, and repent of some sin. I guess it's possible for a player, or a coach, or a fan, to tell God that she will obey Him if He lets her team win. I doubt that this would work, though. God surely could use the outcome of a game to subtly, or strongly, influence fans, players, coaches and referees for good, in many different ways we can't imagine, tailored to each of the individuals involved. We aren't likely to see such influence, unless we are personally involved.

Situation 4), that God uses events, including contests, to influence many people in various ways, for their good, and His glory, seems most likely, to me. And it seems to me that I shouldn't spend a lot, or any time, praying for a particular winner in athletic contests, and perhaps not even in political ones. (I ought to be praying that God's purposes, whatever they are -- we usually don't know all of them -- will be advanced, by my candidate, or the other one.)

I think it's OK to play for the safety of the players and coaches, and the audience, and that participants and fans won't be tempted to sin (for example by hating the opposition, or the referees, or being proud if their side wins) because of an athletic event. And the most important prayer, for an athletic contest, must be to pray that God will be glorified through it.

The same sort of actions by God could, I guess, be true of political contests. And dare I mention war? God did intervene in various ways in military contests in the Old Testament, sometimes, it seems, more interested in making some combatant the winner, or sometimes more interested in letting one side -- often the sinful Israelites --   be defeated. Perhaps God still intervenes in battles and wars in the 21st Century. Battles and wars usually must be more important than, say, the World Series.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment.

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