According to a new survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 50 percent of American sports fans believe a supernatural force is at play during a game. They believe either God has a role in the game’s outcome or that their team has been cursed at some point. Football fans pray more than other sports fans and a quarter of them say they perform pregame and game time rituals.
Of course, it’s not just fans who connect sport and religion. Russell Wilson is open about his faith and everyone has seen Tim Tebow kneel down on the field in prayer.
Parishioners from Eastlake Community Church in Bothell have made a handful of Seahawks music videos that have seen hundreds of thousands of hits on Youtube. But there is no mention of prayer or faith. Founding pastor Ryan Meeks says he does not pray for the Seahawks to win and he doesn’t think God has any stake in the game.
“I mean, these guys are clearly very good athletes and the way that they play, one way or another, impacts the end result of the game. These are actually good athletes who are playing and they make mistakes and they get breakaway plays and that’s how the game is won or lost. Period.”
He doesn’t think praying for a football game is a good use of prayer.
“In a world where 30,000 kids die everyday of starvation or diseases related to malnourishment, I suspect it might piss God off a little bit that people waste prayers on things like the Super Bowl. There’s a kid in the Sudan who can use that prayer.”
Ryan thinks it’s a bit selfish to pray for a Super Bowl win.
“Prayer in the New Testament isn’t about, ‘God, let things go MY way.’ It’s rather about, ‘God, use me to let things go your way’. I don’t think that’s what the Christian scriptures teach. So if you’re a follower of Jesus, the idea that, ‘I just pray for my team to win, God is on my side so we’re going to beat you in the Super Bowl’ kind of thing – which would be great because I would love for the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl. But I think it’s going to come down to athleticism and actually game playing.”
But he does think prayer is important, especially when it’s used to better oneself.
“My prayer around sports would be ‘God, please help me to not be such a trash talking jackass,’ right? It’s not about win or loss, but it’s about the kind of person I’m becoming. I think that’s clear that Jesus cares about our character and how we live in this world.”
According to the survey, 48 percent of people polled think that,”God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.”