During a recent visit to my hometown, I was intrigued (and more than a little amused) to note the amount of time and energy that my friends and family expended on their like and/or dislike of now infamous Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
Of course, these conversations were merely a mirror of the nationwide conversation being held by sports and national news commentators who, one can only assume, apprehended a power in the 24 year old’s endzone kneel-salute sufficient to trump discussions of electoral politics or national debt reduction. After weeks of such mania even many devout football atheists (that such people exist! Oh the horror!) had a good idea who Tim Tebow is, and why one might like or dislike him, to form their sentiments.
Now when it comes to Tebow I personally find myself squarely in the increasingly small “just not that interested” camp. But that said, occasionally a comment will drift my way that piqued my interest more than others.
I was especially intrigued when commentators (some of them masquerading as my own friends) would ridicule Tebow for praying for victory before his games. Now allow me one important caveat if you will, I don’t have the slightest idea what Tim Tebow prays for before a game, during a game, or at night before he goes to bed. Having said that, the overwhelming indignation caused by Tebow’s prayers raises important questions for Christians. And the question is something like this: what exactly is prayer? What do we pray for? And how do we talk about our prayer?
Each of those questions, and the many other questions like them, deserves more discussion than I can (or am willing) to give it here. Instead my point is much more modest: how we talk about prayer matters.
If we, as Christians, are not careful about how we discuss prayer, we run the risk of giving the impression that we think God is something like the Great Wish-Granter, or maybe the less powerful but friendlier Omniscient Advice Giver. But our Christian reality is, I think, both different and more beautiful. Instead of the O.A.G. god, we imagine a God that that breaks into every corner of our lives, into our moments of quiet contemplation and our moments of loud praise. We imagine a God that animates our lives in inexhaustibly wonderful and complex ways.
Our job? Doing our best to explain that wherever we happen to do our kneeling.