This was a very thought-provoking post, especially in the light of what I wrote a few days ago about praying for Barbaro. In particular, I was struck by this comment: "That the relative outcome of a baseball team is part of God's decree, his sovereign control in providence of everything that happens, is beyond question. But to suggest that the fortunes of a baseball team are indicative of answered prayer is, well, a stretch to say the least."
On one level, we would want to agree and say, "Well, of course praying for the Cubs' (or for any baseball team's) success is a pointless venture" (and I would especially affirm this as a St. Louis Cardinals fan). But would we really want to carry this out logically? For example, do we really want to say that the fortunes of a business are more important to God than the fortunes of a baseball team? Should I pray for my dad's business to succeed, but not for a friend's baseball team (a number of the Cardinals, for example, are believers)? Where do we draw the line?
Further, would it be "wrong" for the Christians on the Cubs to pray for their own team's success? Would it be wrong for a Christian business owner, who has a RFP out to another company, to pray that he wins the bid? Would it be wrong for a family to pray that their house sells quickly and at a good price (and so, they would "win" in the marketplace)?
I tend to think that if we begin to divide between "truly spiritual" prayer requests and less spiritual requests, then we will begin to believe that somehow our "regular" lives really aren't that important to God. And so, we no longer present our desires to God, we no longer carry on conversations with God; rather, we wait for those things that are "truly important," which ultimately means we will never really pray at all.
I also tend to think that if we were to take this all to its extreme, then it would give us a much smaller view of God. Suddenly our God is not intimately involved in our lives, granting us daily bread and minor victories as tokens of his great love and care; rather, we begin to believe that God is transcendent, other, and far too busy to think that the things I care about matter in the grand cosmic scheme of things. Our hearts come to reason, "Sure, he has decreed it all to happen, but he doesn't really care much about it and so, why should you?"
Now, I do believe that as we follow after Jesus, we learn to order our desires after God's own heart and so we learn to pray out of the great categories of the Lord's prayer. As a result, our hearts will not be crushed when our favorite team loses the World Series (like in 2004); our teams are not idols that take the place of the true and living God.
Still, if our God cares about lillies of the field as they wave in a swift breeze and about birds of the air as they frolic in the warm summer days, he surely cares about his own creatures as they run the bases, throw the ball, and smack game-winning hits. And because we enjoy such a relationship with our God, we can take all of these things to him in Jesus' name. Even Cubs fans.