I was watching the football game Monday night when Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after making a tackle. Like many, I watched the scene unfold over the next 30 minutes. I don’t ever recall seeing an ambulance brought onto the field… nor do I ever remember seeing players react the way they did as Damar was being treated — openly weeping. I was fearful that he had died on the field.
Over the next hour, I breathed several prayers for Damar. I prayed that God would protect him. I prayed that he would know God’s nearness. I prayed for comfort for his family and that they would turn to God and seek him, but I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of public encouragement to pray from sports figures and announcers.
Oftentimes saying something like, “I am praying for Damar”, is just something people say to acknowledge that they are thinking of the person in need. How many people who say that actually do pray? Not the majority, I would guess. I hope that doesn’t sound cynical… but do people who have little to no relationship with God actually pray? Perhaps they do.
Dan Orlovsky is a former quarterback who played 12 seasons in the NFL and is currently an analyst for ESPN. While on the air he encouraged people to pray for Damar… and then he did something unprecedented… he said, “In fact, I am going to do that right now. I am going to pray for Damar, and I’m going to do that out-loud.” And then he did.
You can find that video segment on youtube. I watched it with a sense of fascination as the two sports anchors on the show with Orlovsky bowed their heads reverently as he prayed, and then said together… “Amen.” I have watched sport shows all of my life and I have NEVER seen anything like that! In that moment… regular folks… not a famous preacher or an evangelist… demonstrated a belief in God through prayer.
Today I ponder… how will God use what happened to Damar Hamlin for his glory? Don’t you dare think for a minute that he won’t! Can a simple prayer offered on an ESPN sports show cause people to contemplate eternity?
Benjamin Watson is a former NFL tight end and a devote follower of Christ and this week while he was on CNN with Anderson Cooper, he said the following:
“These times bring us face to face with our own mortality. And we all have a day to be born, and we all have a day to die. And so often, in the in-between those two points, we feel invincible – whether you’re a professional athlete, whether you’re at the top of your profession, whether you’re feeling healthy, you understand that sometimes there’s a reminder that, ‘Hey, all of us have an appointment with death.’ But I think after that, it also makes us realize, ‘Where are we? Where do our hearts stand?’ If that were to be us laying on the field or that were to be us laying in the hospital, what would our next steps be?” “Because the questions about what happens after this life – where will you spend eternity? – as you mentioned, Anderson, are coming up for all of us, not just for the football players. But thank God that He provides an answer through His Son Jesus Christ.”
BAM! Jesus IS the answer. I am so thankful for people like Dan Orlovsky and Benjamin Watson bringing to the forefront such an important understanding… it’s not that we pray for Damar… it’s to WHOM do we pray! When we pray we hold the attention of the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present, Holy God.
I am still praying for Damar… but I am praying even more for God to be glorified through this experience. I am praying that people WILL contemplate Eternity. And I am praying that Jesus is sought by many!