by Dale Reeves
How many times this week have you heard the phrase, “This is bigger than football”?! All this past week our newscasts and social media platforms have been flooded with details in the aftermath of what transpired at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati this past Monday night. What was projected to be a marquee matchup between the Bengals and the Buffalo Bills in a game that would determine important seeding in the upcoming NFL playoffs ended abruptly. Twenty-four-year-old Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after making a tackle on Bengals receiver Tee Higgins. With 5:58 remaining in the first quarter of the game, medical staff administered CPR on Damar for several minutes before he was transported by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Many players left on the field after the ambulance departed were seen in tears. Nearly the entire Bills team joined together in prayer. The captains from the Bengals team met with the captains from the Bills in their locker room affirming their support and their prayers for Damar, who was in critical condition. The 65,000+ fans who saw this horrific incident unfold before their eyes Monday night sat in stunned silence for quite a long time. Grown men crying. Spontaneous prayers breaking out in the stadium, and across the country. Strangers in the stadium linking arms, hugging, and praying together. And, as I watched at home while medical personnel were trying to revive the collapsed player, it was amazing to hear NFL commentators on national TV call us all to pray for #3, Damar Hamlin.
I Can’t Wait
My good friend Kathy Sprinkle, a wonderful counselor, trauma therapist, and Christ follower, posted these words on Facebook that have gone viral this week. I share them with her permission:
“I can’t wait.
I can’t wait until he is well and conscious . . .
I can’t wait until he hears the stories . . .
The stories of how an amazing first responder team resurrected his failed heartbeat while millions held their breath . . .
How grown men wept in horror at what they had seen, then dropped to their knees beseeching God to intervene in his behalf . . .
How the Bengals team visited the Bills locker room to encourage and show compassion to his teammates . . .
How much of downtown Cincinnati and the stadium was lit all night in Bills blue to remind people to pray for him . . .
How hundreds of Bengals and Bills fans prayed together by candlelight at University of Cincinnati Medical Center . . .
How $5 million (and still counting) have been raised for his children’s charity . . .
How the anchors of ESPN actually bowed their heads and prayed aloud on worldwide television for his complete healing . . .
I can’t wait for his mama to sit on his bed and tell him all the stories about how God used a young football player to teach a nation what is truly important . . .”
© Kathy A. Sprinkle, 1/4/23
If you have not seen that prayer given on ESPN by analyst Dan Orlovsky, you can view it here:
The Power of Prayer
A few days ago in our church office, several of us on staff at Christ’s Church were discussing the situation and how many people were interceding for the life of Damar Hamlin, for his family, and for the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. Some people perhaps who have never prayed to God on behalf of another individual are praying now, even as Damar’s situation appears to be improving. Others in the media and on social media may just be trying to “cash in” on the situation and use it for their own ambitions. How many people realize the ominous privilege we have to boldly come to God’s throne of grace and approach him in our time of need? We have this promise in the book of Hebrews:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV).
As our discussion continued, I was reminded of these words that the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippian church:
“It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (Philippians 1:15-18, NLT).
When Paul wrote these words, he was in prison. Some people were taking a bit of the spotlight while Paul was out of the way, and they thought they were damaging his witness. But he didn’t care about their motives as long as the message of Christ was getting heard. The attempts to persecute Paul had actually caused the gospel to spread. Regarding today’s narrative, we’re not talking about preaching as Paul was, but about the power of prayer, and I think that the same principle applies: Some are praying and sharing the news with pure motives, and some with selfish motives and ambition—but the message of Christ is getting out either way. And we, as followers of Christ, should be rejoicing, not in the tragic situation that caused God’s throne to be flooded with the same requests, but we should be glorifying God that so many people are doing exactly what he wants us to do all the time—seek his face in humility!
It is so easy to put professional athletes that entertain us on pedestals or see them only as million-dollar athletes with whom we have nothing in common. But, the other night, and all throughout this week, we have all been brought together on the same team. We continue to pray for Damar Hamlin, his family, and his teammates. And I give God thanks today for the reminder that the privilege of approaching the Creator of the universe with our prayers and intercessions is much, much bigger than football.