Last Monday night America stopped and held its collective breath. For nearly ten excruciating minutes, Damar Hamlin lay on the turf at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.
My family watched live as it happened. The medical staff seemed to respond to the player on the ground faster than usual. Then they showed the replay. It became immediately apparent that this was not a run-of-the-mill injury. The swarm of medical personnel and the looks on the players' faces told the story. Damar Hamlin's life was in the balance.
We heard something on air during Monday Night Football that we don't often hear – the announcers talking about prayer. Then they cut to the studios, and the message seemed to be the same. "All we can do is pray." Players knelt on the turf and prayed together.
The next day, approximately sixty Buffalo Bills fans came together to pray. Jill Kelly, the wife of former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, came and greeted all those who had gathered. She spoke to them and prayed with the group for Damar Hamlin.
Then we started seeing prayer in places we would not normally expect to see it. Dan Orlovsky prayed on air on ESPN during one of their NFL shows. The other on-air personalities bowed their heads in prayer and said "Amen" at the end. Anderson Cooper had former NFL player Ben Watson on his show. Watson used the opportunity to clearly present the Gospel.
All 32 NFL teams changed their Twitter avatars to read "Pray for Damar." The Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars met at midfield before their contest to pray for Hamlin. Countless NFL players asked people to pray for Hamlin on Twitter.
In one sense, this outpouring was not surprising. Expressions of religious sentiment have been intimately connected with football for many years. From Tim Tebow praying in the endzone to coaches posting, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" around the locker room to remind players to hold each other accountable, Christianity and football are interconnected. Teams have chaplains, and players circle up to pray before games. From this perspective, a public flood of prayers should be expected.
Yet, the frequent and public calls for prayer take place as America grows more and more secular. Recent trends suggest that people with no religious affiliation could outnumber Christians within the next half-century. A court case seeking to prevent a football coach from leading his team in voluntary prayer after the game went all the way to the Supreme Court.
I was thankful to see the deluge of prayers for Damar Hamlin, as it demonstrated what we already know to be true from the Bible. We know that we are helpless, yet we forget this reality until we come face to face with a situation we cannot control. Nothing makes us feel more helpless than watching a young man fight for his life, and there is nothing we can do.
Romans 1 teaches that every human being in the world knows that God is real because he has made himself known to us in creation. God's power and glory so shine through in the created order that we instinctively know that our lives belong to him. However, because of the power of sin within us, we do everything we can to keep from acknowledging this is true.
Paul drove the point home even deeper in Romans 2. He said that every person has the law of God written on their hearts. Not only do we have an innate sense that God is real because of creation, but we also have a conscience that cries out for him. We have an inner moral compass that tells us when we are wrong.
As we rejoice that God is answering our prayers for Damar Hamlin, it is completely appropriate for us to point to the nationwide prayers for him as evidence of Christianity's truthfulness. We should point people to the helplessness they felt at that moment and their natural impulse to pray. This demonstrates that God created us and designed us to know him. People who typically try to live as if God does not exist cry out to him in times of trouble because those moments prove the truth they try to suppress.
God is real, and we need him. He wove this truth in the fabric of the universe, and he impressed it on our hearts. Too often, it takes a tragedy for us to remember it.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Timothy T. Ludwig/Stringer
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”