Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

Our church team prays before every game. I know the other teams do the same thing. Only one of us can win. Should we be praying before competition, and, if so, what should we pray for?

New Era

Yes, you should pray before your games and competitions just as you would before any Church-sponsored activity. In fact, the Lord told us to pray about everything in our lives. “Let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you” (Alma 34:27).

That scripture also gives us a clue as to what we are supposed to pray for. We are supposed to pray for the welfare of those around us, not just for our team, but for the other team, the officials, and the spectators who are also involved in the game.

Pray for Unity One of the nicest things about participating with a group of people on a sports team is the great feeling of togetherness that often comes. When your team members like being together, enjoying each other’s company and having fun playing games, your feelings of belonging and caring make the activity worth doing.

Pray for Sportsmanship Some people have trouble controlling their tempers in competition. Getting angry takes the fun out of the game. Asking for the Lord’s help in learning to control unkind feelings in a competition is certainly an appropriate thing to pray about. True sportsmen appreciate good play whether it is on their own team or on the opposing team.

Pray for Safety Physical activity involves some risk of injury. Participants may be playing in sports that they are not particularly skillful in or when they are not in the best of condition. Besides taking reasonable precautions by making sure equipment and playing surfaces are in safe condition and that participants are not placing themselves at risk, a prayer for protection from injury would be in order.

Pray to Say Thank-You You don’t always have to ask for things in prayers. You can also express your gratitude for the chance for your team to be together and participate in a sporting event. You can thank the Lord for your good health and for the good feelings you have for your team members and for the teams you meet. By remembering the things you appreciate about playing together, you can help keep the importance of the game in perspective.

But We Want to Win Of course, it is fun to win. Keeping score makes the game more interesting and often helps the team members play more intently. But it’s also fun to play against a team that is better, more skilled. It helps your team improve. It’s also exciting to play against teams that are evenly matched. Then the joy of the game and the joy of playing together become more important than the final score.

After all, it is only a game. In the end, the Lord will not care who won or who lost. But he will care a great deal about how you treated others and how you represented the gospel you believe in.

Readers

Although winning is a lot more fun than losing, it makes little difference towards our eternal progression. What makes a difference to me, when I play sports, is that I’m striving to improve my physical body, getting to know my fellow competitors, developing talent, and having fun at the same time.

Steve Inman II, 16 Irvine, California

I played for the Church College of Tonga’s volleyball team. Before each game, a prayer was said because it was routine and because we wanted to win. Later we realized the importance of prayer. We asked not for victory but for the courage to accept victory, the ability to display teamwork and good sportsmanship, and, most of all, the courage to stand as examples of the gospel in deed.

Sister Lotulelei, 19 New Zealand Wellington Mission

It wouldn’t be fair to expect to gain top marks in an exam when you didn’t put in the preparation needed. When you pray, pray for your team to play as best you can and for safety. Winning isn’t everything.

Matthew Barr, 16 Toukley, New South Wales, Australia

Our Young Women team has always loved basketball and volleyball. As we advanced and the games became more competitive, our prayers changed. We would pray during time-outs or in between quarters when we were frustrated. Our prayers asked that we would be able to play smart and be able to win. I never felt the Spirit during those prayers, and I think it was because we asked for selfish and unimportant things. Prayers should be humble. The purpose of Church ball is to make friends, involve less-active members or nonmembers, and have fun.

Jennifer Roper, 16 Taylorsville, Utah

In all the softball games I’ve played with my ward, our team always has good sportsmanship. I think we should pray to have fun and play fair. If you’re having a good time and getting along with the other team, you know your prayer helped because you didn’t get hurt inside.

Sonja J. Hunt, 13 Richfield, Utah

We should pray always as the scriptures teach us. Of course, there is only going to be one official winner of the game, but if you can play better than you’ve ever played before and with good sportsmanship, at least you know you did your best. You can always feel good about that.

Monica Stratton, 17 Cedar City, Utah

I remember when my branch met with another branch for a soccer match. I asked the Lord to let us win. After 90 minutes of the game, the visitors won by 3–0. I was upset, saying that my prayer was not answered. But the referee had asked me to offer a prayer. I prayed for everybody’s safety, and everyone was safe. My prayer had been answered.

Elder Joseph N. Diamany Zaire Kinshasa Mission

In our stake the biggest and best award is given to the team with best sportsmanship. We pray that we can remember that we are there to have fun. The games are not intended to hurt relationships because of too much competition.

We are told by our Heavenly Father to pray about anything and everything, so why not pray about sports?

Emily Bell, 15 Everett, Washington

We should pray before all Church activities because we want to include our Heavenly Father in everything we do. That’s what makes the difference between a Church activity and friends just hanging out.

Becky Hill, 14 Manassas, Virginia

Let’s say you are a member of a team, but your team doesn’t all attend practices, and when they do, the effort is not sincere. Can you reasonably expect God to answer a prayer for victory? Remember that as long as we do our individual best, we still have a victory within ourselves.

Nephi Oliva, 18 Whittier, California

Yes, you should pray, but for the right reasons. Remember that Church sports are to create a better friendship between the members and people that are involved.

Jared Jensen, 15 Chandler, Arizona

[photo] Photography by Craig J. Moyer

[illustration] The Savior taught that we should not allow our prayers to become vain repetitions (see Matt. 6:5–13). Our prayers before sporting activities should come from a sincere desire for all participants to enjoy the activity in a safe and sportsmanlike manner. (Painting Sermon on the Mount by Harry Anderson.)