"Penalized for Praying"
November 17, 2014
(Jesus said) "And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God." Luke 12:8-9
Sam Turner is a senior who plays football for Fort Myers High School in Florida.
At a recent game, Turner caught a 27-yard pass and scored the team's first touchdown of the game and the first of his career. Immediately, he knelt down in the end zone and said a twofold prayer. The first part of the prayer was offered in appreciation. Turner said, "Lord, I thank You for this talent with which You've blessed me." The second part of the prayer was to pay respects to a teammate, JoJo Brunson, who had been killed in a drive-by shooting.
Even as Turner was praying, one of the refs threw a penalty flag.
The ref's call was Turner had shown unsportsmanlike conduct when he knelt down to pray. The ref said Turner was "calling undue attention to himself." Turner tried to explain that the ref was wrong. He was just trying to thank the Lord. The explanation may have been honest, but the ref's decision to negate the touchdown and slap the team with a 15-yard penalty was not rescinded.
Over the years I've seen all kinds of things happen on high school football fields:
* I have seen players being hit long after the whistle was blown.
* I have seen entire teams whose coaches had taught them how to cause, and get away with causing, great physical damage to their opponents.
* I've seen players do a pretty nice dance, along with a back flip or two after they had scored.
Yes, I have seen those things and worse, but this is the first time I have seen someone being penalized for praying. Well, I suppose, with the war on religion which is being raged, we can expect to see more penalties being thrown at Christians in various arenas. Maybe the best candidate for a position won't get the job because he was seen praying before his interview. Maybe some woman won't get asked out for a second time because she prayed before dinner when she was out on a date.
I suppose there will be all kinds of places where Christians are going to be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the face of such persecution, Christians can respond a number of ways. Many will become timid and keep their faith all to themselves. In the passage above the Savior said, silence and denial aren't the way His people should go.
Far better is the option Turner has selected for the next time he gets a touchdown. Since he doesn't want his team to be penalized again, he has decided to be more discrete and say his prayers from the sidelines.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, You gave Your life for my salvation. Grant I may always glorify and give thanks for Your sacrifice. Grant courage and wisdom to the next generation of believers so the world may be touched by the greatness of You. This I ask in Your Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries