Many from our community are upset by the recent ruling in Pottsboro prohibiting public prayer before football games. I'm a little hacked as well. I’d like everyone to pray Christian prayers wherever "two or three are gathered." But another part of me thinks there might be something not so bad about this. Here's why:
(1) No Christian prayer before football games means no other kind of prayer as well. I suppose if we allow a Christian minister to pray we would have to allow an Imam to lead a Muslim prayer or a monk to lead a Buddhist prayer, or an atheist to lead an atheist prayer or whatever they call their meditative time. I would really not like any of that at all.
(2) To tell you the truth, I rarely feel that throwing in a prayer before a football game while people are juggling their popcorn and arranging those big foam fingers is hardly a religious experience. I'm suspicious that these types of public prayers resemble those condemned by Jesus in Matthew 6. Just to remind you Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. " Matthew 6:5–6 (NLT)
Why do we want to pray at football games in the first place? Now, I'm not saying that there can be absolutely no pure motive behind the practice, but I think it tends to be more of a "look at us, we're praying" type of prayer. It comes off to me as more of a prayer that makes us feel good and makes us look good and I don't think that's the real purpose of prayer. Maybe prohibiting these types of prayer will get us to go into those private times of prayer where we more often see Jesus praying. He normally went off by himself to pray, sometimes even on other nights than Friday!
(3) Maybe people telling us not to pray will have the exact opposite result. Maybe we will pray even more when that opportunity is taken away. I know I need to pray more and my experience is that churches need to pray more as well. In fact, if we call a prayer meeting I can count on a low attendance. We recently had a back-to-school prayer at our church and had about 12.528% of our Sunday morning worship attendance (that figure is not precise, I just like adding decimal places). A group I'm a part of celebrates National Day of Prayer and we get a whopping 100 people out to pray. We even feed them hamburgers. Speaking of prayer and hamburgers, isn’t it odd that we try to boost our prayer meetings by feeding people? Prayer and feasting has replaced prayer and fasting. Something just seems wrong about that. Maybe no prayers at football games will get more people praying at other opportunities even when the kitchen is closed.
Again, I miss the good ole days when we all read from the "good book" and could all recite the 23rd Psalm and the Lord's Prayer. But we live in different times and if we are going to change this world for Christ we're going to have to do a lot more than squeeze in a prayer before kickoff. Besides, Christians have faced much more serious times and by the power of God they've come through. I suspect that a people seeking God can make it through this as well.
Anyway, keep praying!