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Monday, October 18, 2010

The Power of Prayer

Jamie McMurray celebrates in victory lane after winning the Bank of America 500 NASCAR race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina on October 16, 2010.  UPI/Nell Redmond . Photo via Newscom
One day last week, I wrote about following sports because of the humanity athletes display – the struggles, the heartaches, the sacrifices, the defeats, the hopes, the unfulfilled dreams, and sometimes the unknown battles. What moves me more than anything else in sports is seeing an athlete or a team overcome a major hardship to succeed in some fashion – and I don't just mean victory on the field – and then be blown away by the reality of it all.

That happened on Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you are a NASCAR fan, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs because I'll just be providing details you already know. If you aren't a NASCAR fan, stay with me because this isn't really about NASCAR.

At the end of last season, Jamie McMurray found himself without a team. Roush Fenway Racing was downsizing, as mandated by NASCAR, to four teams and McMurray was the odd man out. He didn't know if he would race again in the Sprint Cup Series (the highest series) and he didn't know if he'd get a shot in a lower series. He had moderate success on the track, but not enough to turn a lot of heads, especially in tough economic times when sponsors expect high return on investment.

McMurray landed on his feet with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing (the same team he started his career with) for the 2010 season and he won the granddaddy of all races, the Daytona 500, right out of the box. He was emotional in victory lane which made it emotional to watch – in a good way. He won again later in the season and he won for the third time last night. He was emotional again in victory lane and this time he explained it a little further:

Later, in the post race press conference, he went into more detail about his "power of prayer" comments, saying he was emotional at Daytona because his prayer had been answered. He said praying for a win is a very selfish thing and that winning isn't the first thing he prays for every day, but when the win in Daytona came, he was moved to tears at the realization that his prayer had been answered. Here's a clip from that press conference:

His explanations last night were genuine and he got teary eyed again as he explained himself. I converse with other race fans on Twitter during races and immediately after he spoke about the power of prayer, people began to talk about how refreshing McMurray's genuineness is and how cool it was to hear him talk so openly about prayer. Yesterday around noon, I did a search on Twitter to see what random people were saying about McMurray's mention of prayer and here are some of the comments:

@nBoEnforcer: Loved Jamie McMurray's shout-out to the power of prayer tonight...very heartfelt.

@TylerJStrong: Wow Jamie McMurray, what a GREAT victory lane interview. You may be my 2nd favorite driver now. Talking about the power of prayer, awesome.

@attackoflove: I love Jamie McMurray. Didn't just thank God in his interview but he talked about the power of prayer!

@chuckscoggins: Wow! Great Victory Lane speech - talking about the power of prayer - by Jamie McMurray tonight. I'm now a McMurray fan!

@roglee83: Jamie Mcmurray the power of prayer don't work TRUST ME!!!!!!

Years ago, I wrote a commentary for a Christian newspaper. The article was called "Does God Care Who Wins?" I interviewed three theologians, all from differing persuasions, and then I offered my own opinion, which, in part, was this: 

"We know that God is intricately involved in the lives of people – even those with hard hearts. We willingly accept that God ordains the specific circumstances that lead to each new job that we take, each new home that we move into, and each relationship that we participate in. We don’t always readily see the circumstances leading to those changes as positive, though. Getting fired hardly seems positive unless we believe that God was in it.

"Maybe winning and losing on the athletic field is like that. Maybe God orchestrates wins and losses because both have a place in His plan."

Read the article to get my full take, but the couple of paragraphs I quoted pretty much describe how I see answered prayer and prayer that God doesn't answer in the affirmative. God has it all figured out. Sometimes he gives us what we ask for and sometimes he doesn't, but the takeaway from McMurray's reaction to answered prayer was a life lesson in the power of showing gratefulness to God. And I couldn't help but think McMurray's gratefulness prompted somebody, or many somebodies, who had not prayed in a long time, or maybe ever, to drop to his or her knees in prayer last night.


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