Thursday, June 01, 2006

Prayer for the Cubs?

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.

6 comments:

Tom said...

The Reds must have had more praying for them last night than our Cubbies.

Back when Law and Grace played for the Cubs I would have thought there was a theological connection but now we have (had) Angel Pagan. What do you make of that?

Bobby's blog said...

JI Packer was interviewed about something very similar in CT back in Fall 2003. It was concerning the "curses" on the BoSox and the Cubs. It also covered praying for sports teams, if I recall correctly.

Sean Lucas said...

Tom: I used to follow the Reds and came to be convinced that Ken Griffey's health problems were somehow the direct result of my support. Once I stopped following the Reds, Junior hit 35 HRs and stayed healthy most of last season. Perhaps there is something there.

I'm sure there were many Lutheran ministers in the Chicago area who used the Cubs in order to rightly divide the Word with Law and Grace. I still think theological points could be made with Mr. Pagan (which could take us into athlete's names, like the NY Islanders' winger Miroslav Satan).

And I do think there was theological significance in the fact that Pujols hit 3 HRs on Easter Sunday this year...;-)sml

Derek Thomas said...

Sean

A friend drew my attention to you lengthy and interesting reply here to my earlier post about the Cubs. Now, you must understand that I have to admit to being thoroghly bored by almost all sports (sad, I know) but in the interests of a good marriage I enter into my wife's love of baseball.

I wasn't suggesting, though I do admit that my post was unclear, that we should divide prayer into spiritual things and other things--the great evangelical habit of spiritual bifurcation. Nor was I outlawing prayer for the Cubs--they sure could do with divine intervention if last Wednesday's perfomance was anything to go by, though I would find it difficult to pray such a prayer. But I was trying to say that winning wasn't necessarly a sign of God having answered prayer and of God's favor. In that case, God loves the Yankess more than the Cubs--please! Everybody south of the Mason Dizon lines know this isn't so.

Blessings

Derek

Derek Thomas said...

Sean

I posted a comment to this somewhere, but where? It went into the netherworld. But I'll try again.

Your comments were insightful. I wasn't suggesting, though, that we shouldn't pray for the Cubs! What other hope do they have? Rather, I'm not at all clear that we can say: the Cubs won therefore God has answered my prayer. Succes in this field could be argued as a sign of God's abandonment? In any case. that would mean that there are more praying for the Yankess than the Cubs which is an interesting, though unlikely conclusion!

Sean Lucas said...

Hi, Derek:

Of course, you are right that winning isn't necessarily a sign of God's answer to prayer--as the Mark Noll book (about which I posted around the same time) demonstrates all too well, two "sides" can pray to the same God for victory and mistakenly view military battles (or baseball games) as signs of divine blessing.

I appreciate your clarification and your collegiality in the Gospel! And I also appreciate that we are on the same side in so many ways: for the Reformation and against the Yankees!!

Best wishes,
Sean

PS--all my comments are moderated because I've gotten hit with spam in the past. Sorry I wasn't quicker on the draw to get your post up! sml