Tim Tebow faces one of his biggest tests tonight as he faces Tom Brady. (I’m writing this before the game so that my comments will be more honest).
Who knows what will happen? We all know Tebow prays frequently and in apparent fervent faith (he prays too publicly for some high-church tastes). But is he praying to WIN? I don’t think most Christian athletes pray to WIN per se. For example: what about the case of two Christian teams meeting on the gridiron, and both pray? (And what about the Civil War?). I don’t think most Texas high school coaches are so dumb that they’d miss the irony of both teams praying for something as crass as racking up more points than the other guys.
It seems, though, that a large segment of the sophisticated secular commentariat understand “the ol’ time religion” not a whit. Judging from the remarks of some, they seem to think that religious athletes simply pray for victory—as if God were some sort of giant vending machine (and if you don’t get what you asked for, well, you apparently didn’t have enough faith).
But surveys show that while a large number of Americans believe in God, only about half believe God helps sports teams win. This shows to me that while there may be some people out there who are a little superstitious, there are many more whose faith is a bit more sophisticated than the snark merchants on the tube realize, and that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the philosophy of those who look only at statistics and win-loss records.
Actual religious Americans—and I’m assuming, based on his erstwhile comportment that this includes Tim Tebow—hold a different view. They believe that they should pray to God before any significant challenge or contest, not so that God would make them win—and not so that God would make “the heathen” look foolish—but so that God would be glorified. God could be glorified in a loss, for example, depending on how his servants conducted themselves. After Tebow’s humiliation at the hands of the Detroit Lions on October 30, 2011, for example, Tebow did a great service to his creator and to the game in his mature and magnanimous conduct, including his generous comments afterwards toward those who mocked him (he was utterly free of bitterness). Who, then, was the real victor: the Lions, who are now out of the playoffs? Or Tebow and the Broncos, who are now still alive deeper into the playoff schedule? Even if he had lost last week, though, Tebow has been conspicuously faithful, and such faithfulness and the fruits of such faithfulness are among the chief objects of prayer.
Tebow could be humiliated tonight in worldly terms. But my guess is that he has not prayed for victory as much as that his God be glorified. Even a humiliation could be a victory, as it was on an infinitely larger scale at Golgotha.
Somehow I think Tim Tebow’s prayers will be answered tonight, regardless of the score.