After moving to The Bahamas in June 2010, I joined the Nassau Street Hockey league—playing for the Potter’s Cay Pirates in my first year and then playing for the (Stanley Conch Champion) Nassau Hurricanes in year two.
Aside from the fun I have playing hockey with a great bunch of guys, it has been amusing to observe how my teammates and opponents have engaged me. I’m pretty sure that a few of these guys aren’t used to having a pastor around, and I’m likely the first “preacher” to play regularly in the NSHL.
Some of the players have admitted to testing me with behind-the-play “bumps”, elbows, and theologically rich chirping. One of the comments I’ve heard a couple of times has followed my making a save, “Rev., let’s see you Tebow!” (In the event you don’t know what “Tebowing” is you will need to read this article.)
For many of these guys, the frame of reference for a devout Christian playing sports is Tim Tebow. I am a huge Tebow fan, but I’ve always resisted the invitation to “Tebow” after a big save. Which leads me to the reason for this post. How does a devout Christian engage God prior to, and during, a competitive match?
My instinct is to pray. I pray a lot before the game, and I pray a lot during the game. To my teammates and opponents it probably just looks like I’m intensely focussed. I don’t bow my head. I don’t close my eyes. I don’t “Tebow”. But I pray.
What do I pray for?
I pray for a bunch of things, but one thing I don’t pray for is a win. I wonder if my inspiration for not praying for a win will surprise you…It’s Tim Tebow. I’ve enjoyed reading Tebow’s autobiography, “Through My Eyes”, and hugely resonated with this comment in particular:
“I’m not sure God is into who wins or loses—He probably is more concerned with what you do in the process and what you will do with either result.”
I’m acutely aware that my attitude and actions on the rink can positively or negatively impact another person’s view of Christ and Christianity. Hockey is a rough sport and there is a fine line between playing tough and still keeping it clean. Accordingly, my most frequent prayer is for my attitude towards others. I’ve been speared, butt-ended, and even thrown into the net—it’s not fun, and it tests your self-control. That’s part of the reason I need to pray.
As a goalie, I also pray that I don’t let in any weak goals. That probably sounds very close to praying for a win, but I can honestly say that I don’t mind losing. What I mind is being the cause of our losing. I let in some bad goals this year, but thankfully that wasn’t the case in the Stanley Conch Finals.
I didn’t sign up to play goalie. Although I played goalie in ice hockey for 30 years, I didn’t like the idea of putting on all that gear in this tropical Bahamian heat. But when our regular goalie quit, I was pressed into action without even having all of the necessary equipment. Accordingly, I did pray for a measure of safety as one of the pieces of equipment I was missing was a cup. If Chris Wheaton had hit me with a shot there, I might never have walked quite right again.
So yes, pray before you play and, as you have opportunity, pray while you play. I don’t want to be overly demonstrative with that. I don’t want to draw attention to myself when I’m praying. But I do need to pray. I do so remembering the apostle Paul’s instruction, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thess. 5:16-18).
I thank God for the opportunity to play street hockey in The Bahamas, and I am grateful to do so with a great bunch of guys–even when they slash me.