Have you ever prayed for your sports team to win?

Apparently BYU got whacked by TCU yesterday.  Which of course raises the question:  how many Latter-day Saints were praying for a BYU victory before the game?  And does Heavenly Father care?

I am not talking about a prayer like, “we hope nobody gets hurt at the game” or “let the players play their best.”  I am talking about a full-out plea to Heavenly Father to help your team win over the other.

I am a pretty crazy sports fan sometimes, I even often bet on sports, but I usually choose free online bets where I can save dollars as I am not a heavy gambler. I’ve never prayed for my team to win.  It just seems like a waste of my prayer time to ask Heavenly Father to care whether my team scores more points than the other.  It seems like He definitely cares about people bettering themselves, being good sports, giving full efforts and learning how to get along.  The final score?  Not so much.

Not that there is anything wrong with praying for your team to win.  I’d like to hear from people who have gotten down on their knees and begged for a BYU win.  Or a U of U win.  Or a Utah Jazz win.  Or, how about the high school softball team?

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

25 thoughts on “Have you ever prayed for your sports team to win?

  1. I never pray for politics or sports. I don’t think the participants are usually worthy of God helping them one way or the other.

  2. On some level, it’s no so different than praying that you get a particular job, or a raise, or other such things that people wouldn’t think twice to pray for.

    ” I don’t think the participants are usually worthy of God helping them one way or the other.”

    So much for “pray for your enemies”….

  3. It is an interesting question, but a slight shift in perspective might be illustrative. For instance, would it be wrong for a player to pray for assistance in obtaining a victory, or for the coach to pray for the same. It is their work, and if we are to pray over all our endeavors, then why not this? I routinely pray for success in my profession, and would have no qualms against doing so were I on the team and associated with it sufficiently enough.

    I have two thoughts for those who would argue that sports are too trivial for one to pray regarding the outcome. One, where would you draw the line between the trivial outcomes (such as sports and politics) and the less trivial (such as medicine and politics)?

    Second, it seems that there is ample evidence that the Board of Trustees of BYU is interested in BYU athletics making a strong showing. If you review the many positive stories about the university and church that were only written and published due to the success of BYU’s football team, why wouldn’t any faithful member of the Church feel hesitant to pray for the further success of the program?

    Perhaps some would feel that praying for the success of one team would require one to pray for the failure of another, but how many things do we pray for that likewise requires someone else to lose so that we may be blessed? Most business ventures are competitive with someone else, and dollars coming into your business means less going to your competitor down the street. Even when we pray for the success of the missionaries we are praying for the coffers of the Central Christian Fellowship to become a little lighter.

  4. Jjohnsen, not so good answer. I imagine you don’t even believe that. All people playing in sports (ALL?) are “not worthy” of God nelping them? I’m sure you’d like a chance to re-phrase that.

    MichaelD, fascinating, good, thought-provoking answer. I think you make a very strong case. I still have to say I could not justify praying for a team to win for myself, but you have given me something to think about.

  5. I guess I should have made my answer more clear, I don’t think participants are worthy of God helping them score a goal, make a basket or get 2,000 more votes. Worthy of God paying attention to them after the game or election is over? Yes.

    I don’t think God cares who gets elected or who wins the BYU/Utah game.

  6. Jjohnsen, OK, I agree with you there. That’s what I was trying to say in the original post. But MichaelD makes some interesting points also.

    I would add: I think God cares more about how you play and compete and how you treat your teammates and opponents than He does who wins a game. He cares about individual human progress, not sports scores that will be forgotten during the eternities.

  7. Geoff, I do agree with you that (at least so far as we are talking about individual participants) God cares more for the manner in which an athlete or team carries themselves than the outcome of any particular contest. No one is likely to be included or excluded from the celestial kingdom based on the outcome of any particular contest, but competing in a manner inconsistent with the principals of the gospel would have a detrimental effect win or lose.

    I am curious how jjohnsen would differentiate between achievements for which we should properly petition God for assistance in achieving and those achievements for which we should refrain from seeking his assistance. I’ve tried to imagine where I would draw a line, and I can’t come up with one that would exclude sporting events. Likewise, I am having a hard time deciding whether or not I believe that God doesn’t care who wins particular sporting events. One could identify literally hundreds of examples of people who have influenced the world for good (both in and out of the church) who only had the world’s attention because they also happened to have significant success in some sporting endeavor.

    LaVell Edwards comes to mind. He is known throughout the country and has been a great ambassador for the Church. Would he have lived as good a life and given just as good a service if he hadn’t won hundreds of games as BYU’s coach? I have no doubt of it. Would 99% of the audience he now commands care a whit about his example, opinions and testimony were it not for those wins? Likely not. I have never heard it said authoritatively, but I do think that Edward’s success as a football coach was something God paid attention to and assisted in. Many would disagree, that’s fine.

    The question of politics is another topic altogether which may be better addressed in a separate post altogether.

  8. I doubt God cares about fans praying for teams. I mean how many fans are there for various teams and how many prayers are going up for both teams from their fans when they go head to head?

    I do feel though that God hears and wants to listend to player’s prayers because that falls in line with Alma 34 where he says to pray for your crops and for prosperity. It’s importan to remember to give glory to God though for the success if and when it comes.

  9. Ama, Alma 34:24. If you are a farmer, your job is growing your crops. If you don’t have success, you will starve or have to find another job. If you are a sports coach or professional player, your job is winning the game. If you don’t, you’ll have to find another job. Something to think about.

  10. For MichaelD’s proposition to apply, one has to first accept God will answer Mormon prayers more readily than non-Mormon prayers. For an average BYU game there are probably equal percentages of rabid fans praying their respective team to win. Why would God answer BYU fans’ prayers over BYU opponent’s fans’ prayers more readily? I’m not at all convinced he would. If anything, they probably cancel each other out.

    It all brings to mind Lincoln’s famous quip when asked if he believed God was on the North’s side and he replied hopefully the North was on God’s side. The only verified instance of God choosing sides in a sporting event occured during the 1980 winter olympics when God wisely sided with the Americans over the Russians in ice hockey.

    And there’s probably a simpler explanation for Lavell Edwards success: he was an outstanding football coach and probably would have been an outstanding football coach if he belonged to another religion. (That said, I’m gald we can claim him.) Additionally, he and BYU probably leveraged their Mormon status to get good Mormon athletes to attend BYU. I really doubt God had a hand in a single BYU victory for any sport. (Besides, if God’s a football fan, he’s not wasting his time with MWC football.)

    That said, when I turned on the Sugar Bowl last January and figured out the patch the Ute players wore were Elder Wirthlin’s initials (took me awhile) I knew not only would they win, but they would crush Alabama. QED. So, maybe I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about-very true-but I feel no compunction rooting and praying against BYU when they play an ACC school.

    I don’t know or really care if praying for a team to win has any efficacy in the eyes of God, it momentarily makes me feel good and like I’ve contributed in a small way. Of course, I take no blame for unanswered prayers and awful performances by my much prayed over sports’ teams, both of which have occurred with alarming frequency of late.

    Following MichaelD’s logic, if I can figure out how Mormons benefit from the Phils beating the Godless Yankees in the World Series, my impending prayers will have more currency in God’s eyes. I wonder if I should include a fast with my Phillies prayers.

  11. Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t pray for sports outcomes, but I usually root against BYU when they’re playing a Pac 10 team. I wonder how many Latter-day Saints’ prayers I am countering when I do so. Hmmm.

  12. We can all agree that God hears and answers prayers, though he doesn’t bestow all of the blessings so requested. Which among us can boast a perfect batting average when it comes to favorable and immediate blessings as requested? Very few indeed. I agree with Lincoln’s reputed sentiment. It suggests a better question than the one proposed by RBC, being, is it more likely that Mormon fans will be praying for something for which the Lord (in his wisdom) is likely to favor, or vice-versa.

    (If we step away from sports context for a moment, do you or I believe that Mormons are more likely than other religious/demographic groups to pray for things that are consistent with God’s will or not? If your answer is not, then what are you doing in this church?)

    Stepping back to sports, you must bear in mind that God is not some mindless automaton or the computer that tallies votes for American Idol. I’m sure you don’t think that God bases his decisions, even those affecting the relatively trifling matters of sports scores, by simply taking a poll of how many people are praying on each side, but takes into account the purpose and spirit for which each is given.

    For instance, RBC noted that he “feel[s] no compunction rooting and praying against BYU when they play an ACC school.” I am always curious about what kind of motivation one has to root or pray against BYU. There clearly is a subculture in the Church that disagrees with the manner in which the brethren operate BYU. This is an interesting field of inquiry, and the brethren are not infallible, but with all the Utah alums in the Church Administration Building, you would think that the church would have done something about the BYU problem sometime before now if there was any question regarding whether or not God wanted those resources going to the School Down South. If all those Ute alums can’t prevail on the Lord to do BYU in, good luck with your efforts! (I still have not heard a compelling reason why any Latter-day Saint should root against BYU, though.)

    Finally, in response to RBC’s criticism, I imagine that you either (i) find find this a rather silly line of inquiry and have responded in kind or (ii) actually have some countercultural animosity towards certain aspects of the greater church organization (with an intentional small “c”). As we all know that (ii) is completely unrepresented in the blogosphere, I will proceed with the assumption that (i) applies.

    My answer is simply to directly address the question originally posed: have I ever prayed for my sports team to win? I have to answer with a qualified yes. I have prayed for the success of BYU athletics, but not in a “please help us beat those $@%%$@ Utes!” sort of way, but my prayers have always been in the line of asking that the team be successful in their most important role of being ambassadors for the Church in a public forum. Their successes and failures (both on the field and off the field) are part of the public discourse and have an impact. Why not pray for their success in this endeavor?

  13. God wants BYU students and fans to learn humility. Sometimes, losing a game is the best way to teach that lesson. As Alma 32 teaches, if you are sufficiently humble, there is no need for you to be compelled to be humble, but if being compelled is the only way…

  14. I live in a world where my successes are often zero sum, meaning that in order for me to “win,” someone else has to “lose.” I long ago stopped asking the Lord to help me win and to simply do my best such that I could tell me client we did all we could.

  15. I concede. My lame attempt at humor or parody at number 10 is easily surpassed by MichaelD’s number 14. You win. You’re the king of comedy on this point.

    You ask, rhetorically I suppose, “Do you or I believe that Mormons are more likely than other religious/demographic groups to pray for things that are consistent with God’s will or not? If your answer is not, then what are you doing in this church?”

    It’s especially funny you want to run me out of the church because I may think non members can be equally sincere in their prayers to God. I don’t think Mormons have a corner on sincere prayers, even for obviously stupid, trivial things like BYU sports, or any other college teams. And, pray tell, what in the world do demographics have to do with an ability to pray for things that are consistent with God’s will? Is there some target demographic you have in mind that is better able to guess at what’s consistent with God’s will? The 18-29 age demographic; the $75,000-$120,000.00 demographic; the lily white Provo/BYU demographic; or, the bureaucrats who inhabit the Church Administration Building demographic. What in the world are you talking about by referencing a demographic?

    In case you are really curious about why I might pray and root against BYU, it’s not limited to BYU so don’t take it personally. With the exception of Clemson, any time an ACC school plays out of conference I root for the ACC team, even when BYU is the opponent. My prayers were answered in a big way a couple of weeks ago when Florida State dismantled BYU. I only hope the Church’s image can recover from such a sorry BYU performance. I have faith the Church will do just fine, despite the football team’s decision to take the day off of work against FSU. Perhaps the missionaries in Florida were able to get in some additional doors the following week because the FSU fans were flush with victory and felt sorry for the Mormon missionaries if the BYU football team is their standard bearer. Rest assured, if BYU played Clemson I would cheer and pray for BYU-Lord knows BYU would need it. Now I have to bow out and begin my World Series prayer and fasting in support of the Phillies. I may even throw in a session or two at the temple.

  16. Btw MichaelD, I don’t think there’s any evidence rbc was saying he was rooting against BYU for any reason but that he’s an ACC fan, just like I’m a Pac-10 fan. I think you’re reading too much into his comment.

  17. I meant no offense, and if RBC or anyone else took offense, I am deeply sorry. I was merely trying to explore the topic a bit in a good-faith discussion. If I stepped over the line to incivility or stepped on any toes, it was unintentional.

    I certainly don’t want to run RBC or anyone else out of the Church, my parenthetical merely asked whether there is any other group outside of faithful members of the Church who, as a group, pray more consistently for the Lord’s true will to be done? Or, in other words, if Catholics, or Baptists, or Muslims or any other religious (or non-religious) demographic more consistently prayed for things in accordance with the Lord’s will, what conclusions must we reach regarding our faith’s claims to greater understandings of such things. By extension, we would have to conclude that our Church is not exactly what it claims. (In other words, if I thought that an application of LDS doctrine led me to be less in tune with the Lord than an application of Catholic doctrine, why would I stay LDS?) Perhaps I was not sufficiently clear in my parenthetical above, as I was not stating that ACC fans (however misguided they might be, serious tic) should be chucked from the Church.

    (I also made a conscious decision not to address the bureaucrats in the Church Office Building and referred instead to the brethren in the Church Administration Building. I understand that those in the Church Office Building bleed much more blue … perhaps it’s that bureaucracy that has kept BYU sports alive all these years.)

  18. I don’t know that I’ve ever prayed for a team to win either. It makes me think, though: I went to Columbia for grad school. And frankly, you can probably pray all you want for Columbia to win, and it still won’t. Because our God may be a God of miracles, but we believe that He follows natural law, too. And there’s something unnatural about a Columbia football victory.

  19. No offense taken here, only amusement. Sorry if any of my flip comments offended anyone. But, I do really want the Phils to win the World Series and am not beyond offering a silent prayer to that end, no matter how pointless that may be. I’m still trying to figure out a Mormon angle to increase the odds of divine intervention for the Phillies. I don’t really think they need it: the Phils are better at every position except third base. And, God won’t reward cheaters like A-Rod and Petite, will he? Phils in 5 instead of 4, because CC is such a good pitcher.

  20. Hmm. Catcher? Advantage Yankees. Starting pitching, slight advantage Yankees. Bullpen, huge advantage Yankees. I think overall the offenses are comparable. I am not a Yankees fan by any stretch, and I often root against them, but I simply don’t see how the Phils win this one. But I also didn’t see how they would beat the Dodgers either, so I probably should keep my mouth shut.

  21. BYU comes to New Mexico to play football every other year. The last time we went to this game, we walked into the stadium and ran into other BYU fans. (Small specks of blue in a sea of red). One guy, who was obviously hopped up on some caffinated beveridge (wink) kept screaming, “Go BYU, the Lord’s University!! This is the Lord’s team”. I just mentioned, but he heard, “God doesn’t care.” I know, it was a downer…he looked confused as I walked away. I don’t think God cares about sporting events, unless it involves small children.

  22. Catcher? When a Phillie gets on first with Posada behind the plate, he will be on third on 2 or 3 pitches. I agree re the bullpen-a source of concern all year long. Yankees only have 3 WS quality starters; Phils have at least 4 and arguably 5 (Lee, Pedro, Hamels, Blanton and Happ). I really wish, though, the Phils picked up Mormon Halladay at the trade deadline instead of Lee. I bet poor Roy Halladay wishes the same thing. Not that Lee hasn’t been superb, but Halladay would be good for 3 WS starts and he’s had success against the Yankees.

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