There are certain moments in life that will stay as a permanent fixture in your brain.

Many of these permanently fixed moments can bring a smile to your face. Moments like watching your beautiful wife walking down the aisle; seeing your newborn son for the first time; hitting a chip-in birdie; seeing Niagara Falls. Moments that no matter how many decades go by, you remember everything in vivid detail, unlike the typical clouded memory.

Unavoidably, sometimes life deals you moments that upon reflection bring anything but a smile. Moments that are so saddening or horrific that you can still remember and recite every little detail as if it were a DVR recording.

Monday night was one of those moments for me.

I’ve been an avid football fan for over 15 years, and I’ve spent probably hundreds of nights watching Monday night football, resulting in a few amusing and pleasant memories, but no monumental, let alone vivid or lasting memories.

At least until this last Monday night.

Regrettably, the details of this past Monday night will be among those permanent fixtures in my brain. I’ll remember watching what I thought to be a fairly routine tackle resulting in a young man, Damar Hamlin, immediately stand up before collapsing in horrific fashion on the football field in front of millions of Americans.

I’ll remember my level of concern elevating by the minute as ESPN kept repeatedly going to commercial break, returning only to give us glimpses of crying teammates, a hushed crowd, and a mass of people gathered in the middle of the field.

I’ll remember the emotions I felt for this young man, a 6th-round draft pick that I had never even heard of before that night, as the tone of Joe Buck & Troy Aikman grew increasingly more ominous and frankly, haunting.

But I’m convinced that the detail that I’ll remember the most was in the word that was used over and over and over again: Pray. 

First and foremost, I prayed on Monday night and I will continue to pray for Damar Hamlin and his family. As of this writing, the latest update on him is that he has shown signs of progress, but remains in critical condition. I pray that it’s within God’s will to heal Damar Hamlin and restore him to a regular lifestyle.

But the detail from Monday night that continues to play itself over and over again in my mind is how many times the commentators and employees of ESPN used the word “pray.” Phrases like when Joe Buck commented that everyone was watching, praying, and hoping for the best. Moments later, Booger McFarland said that he himself was praying for the young man and his family. Adam Schefter, the most esteemed reporter in the NFL stated that he was sure that there were prayers all across the NFL community. 

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m grateful that the word prayer was repeatedly uttered on national television and I hope it evoked some thoughts among the general public towards God. I’m grateful that on Tuesday afternoon, NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky led his fellow commentators in an actual bow your head, close your eyes, prayer live on ESPN airways.

However, there was a thought I couldn’t shake as I heard the word prayer used again and again on Monday night and eventually carrying well into Tuesday.

I realized that our culture clearly views prayer as no more than a 911 call. 

You remember when your parents first taught you about dialing 911, right? How they told you, “make sure to only dial this number in an absolute emergency.” A 911 call isn’t meant to be an every week, every month, or even an every year type of call. It’s a call that you make only when you absolutely need it.

Isn’t that how our culture treats the concept of (really God Himself, but specifically) prayer?

Again, I’m grateful that the word prayer was in the vocabulary of sports analysts, sideline reporters, and the average Twitter user. What I bemoan is the fact that for many of those people, they most likely had to dig up that word like an ancient artifact before they could use it.

A simpler way of saying it might be by simply asking, “when is the last time you used that word? When is the last time you actually uttered the word prayer, let alone actually bowed your head to talk to God?” Prayer is nowhere near the forefront of the average person’s mind in our culture, but for one night, it was. Why? It was because there was an emergency that half the nation had its eyes locked on.

A more large-scale example of this is of course the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, and how suddenly church buildings were full and the concept of prayer had a short-term resurgence. I’m not old enough to remember what those few weeks were like, but I can imagine what it was like based upon what I heard and observed Monday & Tuesday. 

We can reserve for another time the question of whether or not God hears the prayers of the unrighteous. And to reiterate one final time, I truly am grateful that millions of Americans got to hear Adam Schefter & Joe Buck use the word prayer on Monday night and watch Dan Orlovsky lead a prayer on Tuesday on a network that typically distances itself from anything even remotely religious.

But the thought of prayer being our nation’s 911 call still reverberates in my mind now three days later. I suppose my point in all of this if you’re reading this as a Christian is for you to simply ask yourself: Is prayer, and ultimately God, your 911 call?

  • Do you only think of using it when something goes wrong?
  • Do you suddenly get more talkative with God when life is going poorly or there’s an “emergency”?

The majority of people in our culture go through their days, weeks, months, and years barely giving prayer a thought. It often takes a massive national tragedy like September 11th, 2001, or the scariest moment in a sporting event ever, for people to all of a sudden remember that they can dial up prayer as their 911 emergency call.

I’ll continue to pray for Damar Hamlin and his family. I hope people all across the country continue to pray. I hope you bow your head before God tonight and bring his name and any other requests you might have before Him. 

But I’m begging each and every Christian reading this to seriously evaluate their attitude towards prayer.

The ability to talk to our Heavenly Father, to bring our requests and petitions, to literally pour out our hearts to Him because He wants to hear it, is a blessing that should be treasured, cherished and perhaps most importantly, utilized. It shouldn’t be relegated to being a nice bonus point to being a believer in God. And it should never be treated whether in action or merely in our minds, as nothing more than a 911 emergency call.

Pray tonight. And then pray again tomorrow. And then again the next day, and the next day, and every day until we won’t need prayer anymore, because we’ll be in the presence of our Father.

Join us on Focus+ for exclusive content releasing every week!
Become a patron at Patreon!