When the Ball is in the Air, What is Your Prayer?

The sound of the buzzer was deafening. It had to be to over come the uproarious noise of the crowd. But the gasp of the fans wasn’t anticipated. The shrill of the clock sounding zero echoed through a vacuum of silence. And after the lengthy, blaring siren ended… you couldn’t hear a pin drop. Because no one would move enough to cause one to fall.

The ball floated in the air for moments. Had it taken any longer to reach the basket some of the spectators would have needed to breath again. The fate of all things basketball hung on this rubber sphere gliding over the court.

Watching with breath held and heart clinched, the young man that launched the ball said a quick prayer. “God, please, please, please, make it go in!” He wanted to close his eyes and let the crowd’s reaction tell the story… but he couldn’t stand to miss history happen. Even if he were responsible for the bitter defeat.

This player prayed the way many of us do today. Let’s say what he was really praying:

“Lord, I have already planted my feet, aimed, and taken my shot. Now that I can’t possibly control it any longer, I want you to intervene and change the dimensions of gravity. I want you to adjust the natural order of things. I want you to fix my mistake in midair. I want you to overcome my lack of training, I need you to erase the days I gave up, I’d prefer a do over on how I handled my conditioning. I chucked this thing in the general direction of the goal set before me and now that time has ran out, I realize I should have taken this more seriously… so can you help a sinner out? Oh, and by the way, if it doesn’t go in… you will have let me down. Amen”

– Desperate Player

Instead of going into all the issues with the mentality that goes with praying this kind of prayer. Lets just back it up a few seconds and consider a different prayer: “Lord, not my will but yours!” What is this one saying?

“Lord if this ball goes in I will be forever grateful. You are a mighty God and I am your servant happy to do your will. If this ball does not go in, I will be forever grateful. You are a mighty God and I am your servant happy to do your will. I will follow the path you have for my life whether it be a spectacular basketball career or as a traveling accountant. I will acknowledge the grace I have received that has no bearing on the trivial moments of life. I will honor you in all things. Like a wedding vow, my relationship with you will not waver on successes or failures. Each one will draw me in and remind me of your faithfulness and love. Whether ‘swoosh’ or ‘brick’ I will do my best to be your example. This game will not undo the sacrifice you made for me or its many promises that remain.

– Thankful Pray-er

The difference is spelled out plainly in the second prayer. Jesus prayed it in the garden before His sacrifice. The first prayer is about what I want. The second prayer is about what God wants. The first prayer is about what I have done, the second prayer is about what God will do.

The first prayer is all to common. Whether it is a relationship, a job, financial struggles or just bad luck. We want God to press the easy button and fix everything for us. The second prayer is very rare. It says, even if I have to suffer torture and death I will not lose faith and I will continue to follow you.

The first prayer makes God a genie while the second prayer makes us His servants. The first prayer grasps onto worldly things, statuses, situations, and titles while the second prayer looks to the real and eternal future… where none of those things have any value.

The second prayer was spoken by Jesus. Can we pray that prayer? It doesn’t matter if I win. I don’t care if I’m broke. I don’t mind being alone. The unbearable pain doesn’t define me. All I care about is what God wants. All I’m living for is the life that doesn’t really begin until Jesus returns.

One final question: Does your lifestyle match your prayer life? When you desperately need God… do you have to introduce yourself first? Or is He already your friend, companion, and Father nurtured through worn knees and moist eyes? As Jesus can attest to, simply praying for God’s will doesn’t automatically get you the answer you want. But if you want what God wants… you will get it every time.

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