The last two years I’ve had the pleasure of coaching 14u girls softball. I’m not the best softball coach in the world because I honestly don’t know that much about softball. But I do have a pulse and I know how to spit sunflower seeds so I got the job. I was actually volunteered for the job, but it’s still been a great experience.
One of the surprising rituals of the game (aside from the constant dugout cheers) is the end-of-game prayer. Both teams gather around the pitcher’s mound. They cover the plate with dirt and draw a cross in the center. Then they form a circle, hold hands and recite the Lord’s Prayer.
Quickly. I mean very quickly.
It’s a blur of “hallowed names” and “kingdom comes” until they loudly say “Amen” and part ways. The first time it happened it caught me off guard. I thought I knew the Lord’s Prayer well enough to recite it from memory. And I do. But not that fast. We’re talking really fast here. Like Mach 5 speed.
The other night, during the 10 second recitation, I got to thinking about it. Do any of them really know what they’re praying? Are they listening to the words? Do they realize who they’re speaking to or what they’re asking him to do? Because this isn’t a trivial prayer.
We’re asking God’s will to be done on earth! We asking that he forgive our wrongs so that we can forgive those who’ve wronged us. We’re asking for deliverance from temptation and evil. Are any of those things on their minds as they finish up the prayer and hurry back to the dugout? I doubt it.
I’m not too worried about that. After all, it’s a softball game, not a church service. I’m just happy they’re praying. What I’m more concerned about is mindless prayer in church services. When we repeat the same prayers over and over without ever giving thought to who we’re talking to or what we’re asking him to do.
Prayer isn’t something to be trivialized. Or ritualized. It’s a conversation with the Almighty. The Creator of the world is listening to our requests. We should approach him with awe and respect. We should weigh our words carefully with full confidence that he will not only listen, he will act. He will respond. He will answer.
Give that some thought the next time you catch yourself rushing through another prayer. And while you’re at it, say a prayer for my softball coaching skills. I (we) could use it.