If you think England haven’t a prayer in this year’s World Cup, then Bishop Nick Baines has some suggestions. Writing at the start of the month for the July publication of Anglican Diocese of Leeds monthly Diocesan News, he says that brevity can mean honesty when it comes to the joys and torments of following your favourite football team..
(Bishop Nick’s team is, of course, Liverpool FC, and he is pictured receiving a signed Liverpool football shirt)
Bishop Nick suggests that football can be seen as a metaphor for Christian living with its commitment, passion and sometimes disappointment.
World Cup Bishop Nick Baines
"This month will either be a joy or a torture for you.
I know that the World Cup will be a source of great excitement for some, it’s also a cause for wailing and the gnashing of teeth for others. When the footie gets going, the sensitive go shopping. Apparently.
Some years ago I complained about the Church of England’s special World Cup prayers. They were boringly churchy. So, they challenged me to write a better one. I did. In fact, I wrote three. But, only one was deemed acceptable and the funniest was dropped. Except that when asked in radio interviews about the acceptable prayer, I always let them know there was another, and then I had to tell them what it was.
Things got worse as the tournament went on and England got worse. My later prayer simply said: “Oh God, ...”. Not everybody was impressed, but it had the benefits of both brevity and honesty.
This is what prayer is supposed to be. Not an endless talking to God, but an honest crying out of what is in the heart if not on the lips. To this extent, prayer is not about telling God what he already knows; it is not about protecting God from things uncomfortable to delicate ears; rather, it is about an honest openness to God, knowing that this God of the Cross can probably handle the desperations of my soul.
By the time you read this the World Cup will be half-way through. This might be either a mercy or a torment. But, the emotions of those competing as well as those spectating - even via the telly - will tell us something powerful about commitment and passion. Passion comes at a cost, especially when the object of our enthusiasm lets us down. Commitment to the team might be disappointed by the team’s lack of commitment to us. Elation might be tempered by misery. And this for a game.
So, if you want to, you can see in this a metaphor for Christian living: commit, be passionate, but learn to live with disappointment and the rollercoaster of emotion. God can handle it - read the Psalms."
Bishop of Leeds