IDLE AMERICAN: Shall We Pray?...


Inherent with insistence to dig ever deeper--rarely satisfied with merely getting to the bottom of things--are the risks of learning more than we want to know. There are ever so many places to dig, with ever-growing

types of tools with which to excavate. Years ago, the late German Emperor Otto von Bismarck warned that laws--like sausages--are far better if we don’t see them being made. His quote--even if pilfered from someone else--came to mind

following the heart attack of National Football League player Damar Hamlin early in the Monday Night football game on January 2….

Whatever the eventual results of this unfortunate event, it caused the sports world to fall prayerfully to its knees, petitioning restoration of a young man whose life suddenly was infinitely more valued than a football game. Perhaps some of the same people intent on saying “Happy Holidays” rather than“Merry Christmas” days earlier were united with others, unashamedly praying to God Almighty, the Great Physician. If somehow all of us could be aware of sickness and affliction around the world, we’d be overwhelmed. But on January 2, the spotlight was on a football field, and Damar was at its center….

The act of prayer--often ignored and little valued--was jolted back into prominence throughout the land. Professing Christians sometimes admit their prayers to be “a last resort.” Someone deeply rooted in the faith responded that it matters not “which resort,” even if not the “first one.” The episode caused old and young, men and women and folks at opposing ends of political persuasions to be united in the matter of prayer. On the radio and TV airwaves for days following, “prayer” may have been the most word most heard, sometimes from folks we’d least expect….

The episode made me think of famous quotes about prayer, one of which I’ve heard from grade school days. No doubt, it is familiar to you as well. It reads, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Perhaps I should have left it at that. After all, I was unaware of its origin, merely thinking that it was penned by some famous preacher. Turns out, the author was famous, but with leanings more clearly toward poetry than to clergy. While learning more about the life of Alfred Lord Tennyson, I felt drawn to his poetic genius, and less to his life wracked by sorrow, illness and discord. His life was torn by much; I’ll leave it at that….

From a selfish standpoint, I finally have something in common with a professional football player. I, too, was felled by a heart attack, and I, too, was immediately attended by health professionals, both for CPR and jolts from an AED machine. My “moment,” too, was at the center of things, since I had just begun extending welcome and making announcements during a Sunday morning church service in October, 2021. I tumbled from the platform, landing on our senior pastor, seated on the first row….

Admittedly, that’s where comparisons end. His episode was witnessed by 70,000 or so in person, with millions more viewing on television. Mine was viewed by 300 worshipers, as well as several dozen watching the service online. Yet, responses were similar, albeit on far different scales. Fans broke into prayer for Damar by the millions. For me, it was a few hundred. I place highest values on these prayers, as I’m sure he does. For many years, when friends have mentioned prayers for me, I’ve answered that “I need the prayer and they need the practice.” Such remains so. Finally, it is noteworthy that Damar’s heart issues also have brought out the generosity of Americans. His “Go Fund Me” initiative--intended to provide toys for children in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA--had reached $2,500 by year’s end. Now, the figure is approaching $10 million, likely to go higher….