Does Prayer Work in the Huddle?
A definitive answer is better found in a scientific study than in my casual observations of athletic events over the years. Nevertheless, let me present my observations and conclusions prior to actual scientific studies.
As a child in grade school and high school, I noticed my Catholic friends gathering in huddles on the field or court, or with their coach on the sidelines. I wondered what was going on in these little congregations until I was told by a friend that they were praying.
“For What” I naively asked my Catholic friends.
“To win” was their naive reply.
The inevitable follow up questions were:
What does it mean if you lose?
Does God favor one team over another?
What if both teams pray?
Jumping from grade school and high school days to the recent 2016 Olympics, I noticed the winning USA woman’s relay teams praying after they won their events. I wondered, did all four members, or more accurately, all those who contributed by running in qualifications and the semi finals feel a need to pray? Did it help them in any way? Did other teams pray? I assumed they did, especially from Catholic nations.
The USA women’s relay teams won, so I assume their prayers worked very well at the expense of the losing teams.
At this point I realize readers may be finding fault with my reasoning because it may be that those who were praying, were not praying to win, but were praying to do their best, compete to the best of their ability. Winning or losing was not necessarily up for grabs, just do your best as the Lord allows you. Inevitably the question arises; Did a losing prayerful team or individual do their best or was their simple performance lacking that day in the face of a superior team or individual? What role did prayer play? I’ll leave you to ponder those questions.
Other questions: Was prayer a psychological help or and actual physical help, or was it a combination of both for a winner? I expect that proponents of prayer would choose all of the above.
What if a prayerful athlete or coach looses? Did god have a yet unknown purpose for the loss or was the loss a punishment for not training harder, or was the loss an incentive and inspiration to practice harder? For ever winner there are several losers. Children soon come to this conclusion after beating a prayerful team. Praying did no good even when lead by a priest or coach, so why pray or, for that matter why even believe in a god, who lets you lose after you prayed to him, A really bad team might pray for a win for years without a even one positive answer from god.
As we can well see, prayers can be interpreted so many ways that any outcome in athletic events can be interpreted in any number of ways. Unlike scientific studies where definitive trials and outcomes should bear a specific relationship and be substantiated by identical repetitive trials, outcomes of prayerful trials need not bear any relationship to each other. Essentially, anything goes. There is no way to asses the effectiveness of prayer because, if God exists, he may have his own purpose for each individual who prays and who does not.
Debate with my prayerful friends was and continues to be useless. Any and all outcomes are the work of god, win, loose or draw.
Unfortunately, a logical approach to prayer in sporting events is usually lacking by those who pray. If they win a contest, they give god the praise; if they loose a contest, the loss is not god’s impotence but to the simple fact that their opponents were a better team. God is removed from the equation. He plays no part in the loss, just in the win as evidenced by group or individual prayer at the conclusion of a successful athletic contest. This is a pishy god who acts like he doesn’t even exist and yet gullible people believe in him.