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Prayer Has Its Moment in the NFL

Posted on Tuesday, January 10, 2023
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by Shane Harris
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17 Comments
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AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris

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The NFL regular season wrapped up with another slate of exciting games Sunday night, finalizing the 14-team field that will compete for a Super Bowl title. But the most significant storyline from this weekend wasn’t what happened during the games, but what occurred before them and all throughout the past week – players, coaches, fans, and even media personalities openly praying together for an injured player who nearly lost his life one week ago.

Late in the first quarter of a high-stakes matchup on Monday, January 2 between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals – two of the league’s best teams – Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a seemingly routine tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Immediately after standing up, Hamlin collapsed to the ground unconscious, silencing the raucous Cincinnati crowd.

The terrifying scene that then unfolded is one those who were watching the game or saw it later are unlikely to ever forget. A few minutes after Hamlin collapsed, Bills training staff began frantically performing CPR on the second-year player out of the University of Pittsburgh. An ambulance rushed onto the field to take Hamlin to the University of Cincinnati medical center. The rest of the game was canceled.

At the time, many fans and players believed they had just witnessed Hamlin die on the field. Thankfully, that was not the case, and doctors were able to revive him. This past Sunday, he was even able to cheer his teammates on to a victory over the New England Patriots from his hospital bed.

The tragic incident shook many to their core. But in the days that followed, it also produced some of the most inspiring public examples of faith and unity that the country has seen in years.

Immediately following Hamlin’s transfer to UC medical center, Bills head coach Sean McDermott gathered his team on the field for a group prayer. Bengals players were also seen huddled on the sidelines with their heads bowed.

Fans joined in as well. In one viral video, a large group of Bengals and Bills supporters joined together in reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the stands. Later, more fans gathered outside the hospital to offer their prayers and support as well.

The days that followed saw what the Associated Press described as a “public prayer blitz,” with many high-profile figures offering up expressions of faith for Hamlin. #PrayforDamar trended number one on Twitter, as hundreds of current and former players joined in the chorus of the faithful. All 32 NFL teams changed their Twitter profile pictures to include “Pray for Damar.”

In perhaps the most unexpected and moving example of public prayer following the incident, ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky – a former NFL quarterback – stunned audiences by opening Tuesday’s edition of NFL Live with a public prayer for Hamlin. “Maybe this is not the right thing to do, but it’s just on my heart and I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m going to do it out loud, I’m going to close my eyes and bow my head, and I’m just going to pray for him,” Orlovsky said in a clip that has gone viral and been viewed more than 13 million times on Twitter.

“God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that You’re God and coming to You and praying to You has impact,” Orlovsky prayed. “Be with [Damar’s] family, give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of You, God. I believe in prayer. We believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in Your name.”

On Saturday and Sunday, more teams gathered together on the field before their games to offer prayers for Hamlin, who doctors thankfully now believe will make a full recovery. Troy Vincent, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, remarked that “I think we all have to recognize the power of prayer from coaches, players, the staff and the fans that was in that stadium, and the people watching from around the world,” prior to the weekend matchups.

In all, the outpouring of religious appeals was an incredible display of faith from a country that many, particularly on the left, insist is only becoming more secular. After years of controversy and scandal over players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, the sight of players now kneeling together in prayer was a powerful reminder that, with God at the center of our lives, far more unites us than divides us. Few things are a stronger social glue than a public reminder of the fragility of human life.

Many mainstream news outlets seemed befuddled in the wake of the Hamlin prayers, with the New York Times remarking on the “close relationship between Christianity and American football,” while PBS highlighted the “ongoing connection between religion and sports.”

But what the mainstream media may be unable – or unwilling – to recognize is that sports are merely a reflection of our national identity. Though church attendance may be on the decline, and Americans in general may express less affinity for organized religion, the country is still at its core a nation of believers. Just as we have throughout our history, when tragedy strikes, we fall back on the foundations upon which our society was built. What we witnessed this past week was not a nation ready to give up religion, but one ripe and hungry for religious renewal, awaiting a moment like this to come together in a profound expression of faith.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.

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Patriot Will
Patriot Will
1 year ago

It’s very noteworthy how professional athletes are often still given the Constitutional right to open prayer, yet our public school children, the lifeblood of our future as a good and just country, are denied this same right. How does this paradox make any sense?

Rita Needham
Rita Needham
1 year ago

Excellent article on how the Damar Hamlin life-threatening incident united our country once again in prayer. You’re right, when lives are threatened, we turn to God and plead for mercy and healing. This was amazing to witness, and I believe it was orchestrated by the one true God who knew how to bring us back in focus to what’s truly important in our lives. It also caused us to realize how quickly and unexpectedly our lives can be over. We should each want the assurance that when we die, if we have placed our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and accepted God’s free gift of salvation, we will live eternally with Him after our spirit leaves our earthly body. John 3:16 Now our challenge is not to forget this amazing event and how God responded to our prayers for Damar Hamlin. It will be exciting to see how God uses Damar in the future.

Texas Resister 64
Texas Resister 64
1 year ago

Let us rejoice that the forces of evil will not conquer, and even in a very confused culture, with so much going bad, these mighty islands of faith erupt like volcanoes with the love of God and neighbor.

Sharon Ormsby
Sharon Ormsby
1 year ago

Hopefully this will see the return of prayer in high school football throughout our nation. I pray we see it everywhere. Where evil has prevailed in so many places, it’s nice to see that it hasn’t prevailed here. There is hope for the USA still. In this young man, God still has a purpose. I’m grateful the family told the press, the family is one of faith and Damar is strong in his faith in God. That has united the NFL.

Bryan
Bryan
1 year ago

Wasn’t that long ago that Tim Tebow was vilified for kneeling in the end zone after scoring a touchdown. So hopefully this is a trend toward being accepted as common place as it should be.

Kim L.
Kim L.
1 year ago

Years ago, I watched a lot of mainstream sports; football, basketball and baseball. Over time, it seemed the heart of some of the athletes vanished and was replaced with dollar signs. Then, wokeness and politics found it’s way in to the sports world. So very sad. But, on a happier note, there are stadiums and grandstands across our Nation, where Americans stand, place their hand over their hearts and remove cover for our beautiful National Anthem. In those same stadiums and grandstands, Americans bow their heads in Prayer. This is done willingly, with such pride, respect and reverence. The performing athletes don’t make millions of dollars, some are fortunate to break even. Yes, you will see these guys and gals take a knee from time to time, but only to thank God for seeing them safely through their performance. It isn’t the lust of money, but the genuine love of the sport that keeps this close-knit group of athletes motivated. I tip my hat to the outstanding men, women and awesome fans of Rodeo!

Chuck
Chuck
1 year ago

Let us also pray that no more young healthy athletes join the ranks of 1100 others so far that have
collapsed and died of sudden coronary events subsequent to receiving the covid vax/boosters.

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