No one expects the fan who doesn’t believe in prayer to suddenly change his mind about it at game time. What I find curious is the fan who believes that prayer is effectual, has a strong emotional stake in the outcome of a ball game, and refuses to pray for the outcome he thinks would be good. That’s a sign that he should examine — not abandon necessarily, but examine — whether he should even be desiring what he desires. So the eminently lucid Dominican friar Simon Tugwell argued in his classic Prayer in Practice (1974).
Tugwell recommends honesty. You may think that you should ask for world peace before you ask for Denver to win the Super Bowl, but don’t pretend to a more high-minded motivation for your prayers than you really possess. Jesus’ first public miracle was to replenish the wine supply at a wedding. It’s okay to feel the pressure of mundane wants and then to ask for help in satisfying them.
A fascinating subject. It might at first appear frivolous to ask whether we should pray for one team or another but consider, instead, prayers to win wars or make money in the stock market or to win an election. It’s an intersting question.
Who are you praying for this Sunday?