A Prayer for Student Athletes

As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for a text from one of our kids as to whether or not they made it on their school basketball team. I’ll admit, I’m pretty nervous for them and am trying to steady my shaking hands so I can actually type!

Team sports, for better or worse, are a great training ground, not just for building physical strength and health, but for spiritual formation and character development. They are a microcosm of the wins and losses in everyday life. They teach the value and complications of working together with others, the good and bad sides of ourselves that competition reveals, the humility of learning from our weaknesses, the joy of pushing our bodies to their limits, and the reward that comes from hard work, commitment, and discipline.

Since our kids started showing interest in athletics, we’ve tried to inspire them to look at sports with a spiritual view first, seeing God’s heart and hand at work in them through it. Recently, I read this “Liturgy For Those Who Compete” to one of our kids before a game. I’ve shared a portion of it here. 

Sports are such a big part of our students’ lives and we want to engage and support them in it. One of the ways we can best do that is by challenging them to think in the ways mentioned in this prayer and the scripture after.

A Liturgy For Those Who Compete

There are, O Lord, eternal patterns-
fragments of the story of redemption-
etched into our competitions.

So let me be sharpened by my participation
in them – in this active parable of struggle,
in this drama of things to be risked and lost
or gained, of heroics, of hope defeated, and
hope resurgent, of wars waged against
doubt and the voices in my own head, of
struggle against the elements, struggle
against the limits of my own strength and 
endurance and ability, and of struggle against 
a real opponent who seeks my defeat.

For these are each small echoes
of the fights that a life of long obedience
to Christ might entail.

So let the many struggles in this
competitive arena serve to form in me a resolve that will spill
from the boundaries marked out
for this contest,
and into the ways I live out this life of
discipleship – with intentionality, and focus,
ever mindful of the clock,
and with eyes fixed on the prize,
knowing my time here will be brief and,
therefore, my choices will matter.

Though my training for this even is physical 
and mental, may it also serve to shape Christlike 
qualities in my spirit – yielding a greater
     and intentionality
in the ways that I live my life in your 
service and for your glory, O God.

-Excerpt from Every Moment Holy, Vol. 1, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)