As the world turned its televisions and radios to the recent World Cup soccer games, nations came together to celebrate what most of the world calls football. Along with millions of others worldwide, I watched this week's final match between Germany and Brazil and felt more than a show of athletic talent but an expression of powerful, practical prayer.
Members of the Brazilian team, known for their devoted practice of both religion and soccer, integrated the two in a moment of prayerful supplication following their winning match. And while the German team did not pray outwardly during Sunday's final, their team received a collective prayer for one of their injured players who won the game in many other ways.
In the 62nd minute of the game, at the height of a scoreless match, a German and a Brazilian player slid for the ball, connecting with the ball as well as with one another. While the Brazilian player returned to his feet quickly, the German player did not.
Despite the scene being replayed on television, I know life, governed by God, is safe from accidents, so I began to pray. I knew that to accept athletes as being susceptible to harm was to accept that they might be out of God's care. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, writes, "The great spiritual fact must be brought out that man is, not shall be, perfect and immortal" (pg. 428). What struck me about this statement was her use of the present tense. Not one of God's children can be susceptible to pain or injury because we are, in fact, made upright, whole, and complete.
I remembered hearing estimates that one in every four people throughout the world would be watching or listening to this game, so the thought occurred to me that I wasn't alone in praying at this moment.
I returned my attention to the game and saw that this player felt well enough to decline a stretcher and walk off the field. This was a victory in itself, considering the predictions as to the seriousness of the injury. Play resumed, and I learned Germany was playing with one teammate short while this player decided if he would return to the game.
I was then reminded of a moment when I was playing soccer not long ago, when I also came in contact with another player. At that moment I recall lying back on the grass, and I noticed how the clouds above me covered every inch of sky. I thought of how God's love includes consistent care and that this loving care was all around me now.
I knew I was free from harm, because no harm can come to those expressing joy and freedom based on God's care and goodness. A friend helped take off my shoe, and this became one small indication of God's care for me. I remembered the passage in the Bible where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus was not only reflecting God's care for His children by doing this, but his disciples also expressed the humility given to them by allowing their Master to wash their feet. I saw this person holding my foot, and thanked God for this opportunity to see His care for me. It was then that I realized I was all right; there was no pain. I stood up and quickly returned to the game.
Back at the World Cup, a minute later the German player returned to the field, running with confidence and a lightness of foot. He headed the ball within 30 seconds of his return and took a shot on goal in the following minute. He contributed to the rest of the match, and despite Germany's loss, I felt this was a certain victory.
As the Brazilian players knelt in prayer following the match, the following words came to mind: "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory ..." (I Chron 29:11).
He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up
in their hands, lest thou dash
thy foot against a stone.
Psalm 91:11, 12