I have been a life-long Lutheran. I have always loved the Lutheran traditions, the history and stories of Martin Luther, himself. It seems to me; however, that growing up as a Lutheran did have some disadvantages. One of these is not being able to pray aloud in a group. If Lutheran churches teach this, I may just have missed it or not have been paying attention when I was younger. Being able to pray aloud in a group, spontaneously, must come from being in a church environment where it is common, and you just learn to be comfortable with it.
I can still recall the time my future wife took me home to meet her parents. Sunday afternoon dinners when the family gathered were common. Her family was Dutch Reformed. Ilene’s father, John, said grace. The words just seemed to flow, and he seemed to be very comfortable speaking and wasn’t rushing through the prayer. The next time I was there for Sunday dinner, John asked me to say grace. I was afraid this would happen, and of course I wasn’t prepared and not used to just letting my heart’s words flow. I stammered and said, “Well, John, Lutherans don’t pray out loud.” There was only a short silence before he said he didn’t care, and then asked me to proceed. That was a turning point for me and prayer. I learned not only to say grace but to become comfortable offering spontaneous prayers that included praise, thanks and petitions.
Last year my wife passed away after a protracted battle with leukemia. It was fortunate that I had retired only a short time before Ilene’s illness, because I was able to be a full time caretaker. Throughout this very difficult time, my wife and I prayed a lot. Although we prayed for a cure, we also prayed that the Lord would come into our hearts and bring us strength and calm.
Shortly after Ilene passed away, I read an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was by Terry Pluto, one of the sports-writers, who also writes a faith column in the paper. In this article he referenced Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter four, verses 5 and 7 which points directly to what Ilene and I experienced. “The Lord is near; have no anxiety, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God, which is beyond our utmost understanding, will guard over your heart and your thoughts . . . .”
I have learned a lot about prayer over the years, and I know that prayer can bring calm into troubled times and change your life. This is just one of the many things the FCA can bring to young athletes when we introduce them to Jesus.