Friday, September 9, 2011

Rugby World Cup: Praying for Victory

I love rugby. I am less keen on hype around rugby, in particular spending time, energy and lots of words predicting what will happen in the next game. In the end the scribes and commentators have no idea what will happen. The game is where the action is and where the result gets decided.

I love my country and would like to see our team win the World Cup. But the widespread anxieties about this increasingly mean that we need to win the thing so we can stop talking about not winning the thing, rather than win the Cup for the sake of winning the Cup!

I imagine few overseas readers will understand the importance of rugby to our country since only New Zealand and Wales have rugby as their dominant national game. I sometimes think that the All Blacks are our Manchester United and our whole population (minus the few who say, "I can't stand rugby") are its fanatical club supporters.

Are there connections between the All Black squad and our Anglican church? Well, the connections that are there are not well advertised. I can think of one player regularly worshipping in an Anglican church. Another player is the nephew of one of our priests. A photo shot on the news last night showed another player when he played for his Anglican school 1st XV. Readers here may know of other connections!

The more important question theologically at this time is whether we may or should pray for victory for the All Blacks. Tonight, for example, on whose side will the Lord be? The All Blacks play Tonga, a nation with a very strong connection between church (largely Methodist) and society (I imagine at some point the Tongan players will gather on the pitch for a prayer). The cynic might say that whoever is praying for whom the Tongan team does not have a prayer (i.e. cannot win)!

On the whole I think we should pray for the All Blacks to win the Cup. Pastorally we have the most to gain in terms of healing of past memories and receiving of future peace. Why would the Lord not wish to grant such blessing to our benighted nation?


Father Ron Smith said...

I love God (and my Family and friends) - I don't 'love' Rugby. I can take it or leave it. It's funny, I said to my wife, Diana, this morning (as I'm about to celebrate the Holy Mysteries at St. Michael's): "Now, I'm not going to pray for an All Blacks Win!"

I was always taught 'May the best man/woman win' - although I'm not sure the best man won yesterday in the choice for our next C.E.O. in Chch.

I suppose you'll be following all the matches, Peter. May you not be too disappointed.

Paul Powers said...

I don't see anything wrong with praying for your team to win, as long as one accepts that sometimes God's answer to our prayers is "no."

Although I really don't have a dog in this hunt, I'll happily add victory for the All Blacks to my intercessions. Except when they play Wales, of course.

Father Ron Smith said...

Hello Paul. Here we go - What about the problem such prayers raise for God - when other (good?) people might be praying for their team. wouldn't it be more fitting (and perhaps better for all concerned) if we either did not ask for our own team to be unfairly supported by God - as against the others teams; or just simply asked God to enable our team to do their best? Only asking!

My idea about prayer is obviously different.

Paul Powers said...

What problem, Fr Ron? God can (and does) say no to good people all the time.

I guess I might have to pray for NZ to beat the USA. I didn't realize we had a team in the Cup (or that we even have a rugby team).

Mark Harris said...

I believe we get honest with God and pray for what we want to have happen, what we want for our lives, for our health, etc. And we ought to pray for what we REALLY want.

That has nothing to do with what God will do with that information, but has a lot to do with our conversation with God. Praying for what we want is like a good tells the truth about us. God knows, one presumes, but one suspects God is not surprised. God might be surprised however about our clarity of desire.

Desire is in itself just that. Not good, not bad. Just is.

The thing is, if desire is not met by the reality, don't go getting ticked off at God. We can't always get what we want. But perhaps we get what we need. (hat tip to Jagger.)

Go for All Blacks to win the Cup. You want the best for the benighted nation. But mostly, want the best always and make your work your prayer.

Lest ways that's how this sinner sees it.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thaks, Mark, a good summary of intercessional prayer.

However! Despite my oft-stated indifference to Rugby-Fever, I did watch the game - and the pre-match Show (which was wonderful). I did enjoy the match, also!

I watched the Tongan Team praying together before the match for (presumably) the best result for them. I did not see the All Blacks at prayer. The All Blacks, won. What's the lesson here? - presumably, what Mark said!

Howard Pilgrim said...

The divine thing about sport is this, IMHO ... now and then you experience a transcendent fusion of body, mind an spirit, when desire and ego vanish and for a brief moment you find yourself doing something far beyond what you are normally capable of. For Eric Liddell in 'Chariots of Fire" it was running; for me it is golf; and for New Zealand as a nation it is mostly rugby and more recently rowing. As Eric said, " God made me to run, and when I run I feel God's pleasure."

Last night, Tonga had 20 minutes of transcendent splendour against the All Blacks, and didn't their fans know the try they scored was something blessed? The All Blacks did well enough overall to encourage Kiwis to remain hopeful, although more prayer in the All Blacks' dressing room would do no harm, for sure.

It is apparent that prayers from fans on all sides were being generously answered, although I have no way of knowing who gained greatest benefit form the BVM's patronage. Maybe we have to wait for a match such as Italy vs Ireland to get a clearer view on that ... :)

Peter Carrell said...

She might, Howard, only be interested in soccer!

spicksandspecks said...

If I were you, Peter, I would be praying very hard and fasting too around about semi-final time. That seems to be when the All Blacks lose the plot.
And let's all pray for a great World Cup, where we all get a glimpse of the game we'll play in heaven.

Father Ron Smith said...

"..the game we'll play in heaven".

And what exactly, do you think the role of Jesus would be in such a fantasy? Ref., Forward or Full-Back?

Somehow, I do't think the game of Rugby - nor even Soccer, will figure largely in the Marriage Feast of The Lamb. We'll all be far too busy being surprised at whom God has actually chosen to include among the Blessed. It may be that 'prostitutes, LGBTs, and sinners' will at the Table before us! Or, at least, that's what Jesus promised.

Father Ron Smith said...

Now. About this Rugby thing! I do remember the days (being somewhat older than some of you) when sport was played for the relaxation and the joy of taking part. But is that the basic motivation any more?

Most of the All Blacks live in the lap of luxury, with mansions and high-performance cars - that I, as a priest, could never afford. I'm not jealous of that. It's merely that I do have to consider the basic motivation before awarding honorifics. After all, it's just another job - and well rewarded. And all that money for new stadia!

Now, the picture in the Press today - of the young aspiring players; that was exciting! What a pity they will probably grow up thinking about the pecuniary rewards - either they or their parents.