Pray For victory. It really works, ask quarterback Tebow.
Pro Football Season, 2011.
God did it again, he interfered with the outcome of another football game. Again, a talented athlete kneels and gives thanks to God on National TV. No matter that Jesus advised against praying in public, it continues to be popular for athletes and politicians.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no complaints because I know prayer can only offer a placebo advantage, which is no real advantage at all over the opposing team. If prayer were an advantage professional teams would pay lower salaries and have mandatory time outs for prayer. After all, successful prayers are cheaper and more effective than paying large salaries and hiring the best players, not to speak of practicing hard. A local church has a sign out front that claims, “Prayer works when nothing else does.” I know my Indianapolis Colts have not been praying enough because they have not yet won a game this season. When will they wise up?
Does prayer work for politicians? We certainly have plenty of Republican candidates and voters who think so. But, rational people know praying does not influence God to interfere with elections and choose the most prayerful candidate. That would conflict in the democratic concept of letting the people decide on who wins or loses an election. God would not violate the constitution, would he?
The fact that Catholic high schools and colleges sanction pre-game prayer is all for show. They know there will be no automatic win from the prayer session. At best the schools and coaches hope prayer will inspire the players to do their best, nothing more. But, prayer before games looks good and pleases the faithful. Unfortunately, the actual players may not have such a sophisticated understanding of why they pray. I’m sure most of them think God will help them beat their opponents, even when their opponents are praying also. Keep it simple and continue praying; it won’t do any harm even if does no good.
Unfortunately the answer to the question, “Does prayer work? is NO. There are no statistical studies that show pregame prayer wins games any more than intercessory prayer cures the ill, and grows back amputated limbs. Pure and simple, there is no evidence besides the placebo advantage. If there were evidence we would have heard about it from the religious hard-liners.
Let Tebow kneel and pray, I don’t mind. He is like a gambler who has thrown ten straight naturals at the craps table. His streak will eventually end. When he starts losing games he will rationalize and claim God has his reasons beyond our comprehension for the losses. If Tebow gets injured, it will be claimed that God had his reasons. Win or lose, God’s will, will be done. Oh, I almost forgot about luck. When Tebow’s team loses some close games, don’t blame God for the losses. Don’t blame the prayerful players; It was just bad luck, nothing more or less. After all, we can’t go about blaming God for losing a game even though we give him credit for winning a game. Praying doesn’t make sense to me beyond its placebo effect, but I realize it is a good enough reason for someone who believes in supernatural events.
As a high school and college competitor in varsity sports and an atheist, I had the inscrutable pleasure of defeating over half the prayerful teams we competed against. Explain that.
I searched my files for some appropriate poems on the subject of competition. I hope you will enjoy them.
Notice his limp or hear his cough? His ailments are many, but at them don’t scoff.
His back is stiff, his elbow sore; his knee swollen, his eyesight poor.
He stomach is upset, he can’t stand much more. His ailments are many, they’re hard to ignore.
He should be in bed taking pills; relieving diarrhea; curing his ills.
In spite of his ailments he insists on playing the championship match instead of delaying.
He’s running a temperature, he’s not up to par. Three out of five? He can’t go that far.
I don’t have to play hard to beat this poor guy. I’ll have this match won without half a try.
I’ll soon be the champ and get the gold cup in just a few minutes, it’ll be hard to screw up.
The first game was close; I can’t figure it out. He won by a point, ’twas a fluke, no doubt.
The second game ended the same as the first! I’m not playing well; it seems like I’m cursed.
In the third game I fought hard as I could but he played better, he just was too good.
All of his aches and all of his pains, all of his illness and all of his strains
were really a ruse to catch me off guard, inflating my confidence, so I wouldn’t play hard.
When will I learn to not be misled? When will I learn to be cautious instead?
When will I learn that to win in this world, I must wave my flag and not leave it unfurled?
So when you compete here’s something to know, never, but never, underestimate a foe?
Don’t be a loser and don’t be unkind, but don’t get yourself kicked in the behind.
Why is it that we can’t figure out without confusion and so much doubt
which line is shortest at the supermarket, or the closest parking at Super Target?
Making decisions takes much too long and decisions made are often wrong.
Why does fate play little games with us leaving us frustrated and ready to cuss?
Are we punished for an ancient sin by gods that act with dogmatic whim?
Is it planned by heavenly hosts, that we’ll burn the last piece of toast?
Or do we all just remembering the times we couldn’t find words to make clever rhymes?
Are we forgetting the times when we won, when we succeeded and had so much fun?
Fate doesn’t know your face or your name. The gods don’t exist to give you the blame.
Depend on yourself and friends you can trust. Do what you can and do what you must.
Don’t blame others for your mistakes. Don’t blame fate for decisions you make.
Live your short life the best that you can. Even when fate interferes with your plan.