What is This?
This guide offers you a sampler lens through which to view one of the biggest sporting events in the world, and to stimulate and guide a prayer path as you watch. No matter who you’re rooting for.
Loving God is the greatest commandment. Too often we love the blessings of God more than God Himself. A central theme in the Bible revolves around the human propensity to worship created things rather than the Creator.
We desperately need instruction and reminders to flip that narrative. What would it look like to enjoy God’s blessings—like games and sports—in a way that draws our attention back to Him? This guide explores a path toward experiencing God in the midst of watching a game.
Imagine you see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Your immediate thought might be, “This is amazing!”
As a Christian, the view of the Grand Canyon and all of its majesty gives us an opportunity to take that thought further: “God, you are incredible for creating this! Thank you!” In this case, the Grand Canyon triggers a thought in the mind of the Christian that brings him back to God.
Apart from God, we pursue experiences and goals in a quest for lasting satisfaction, enjoy them for what they produce when we acquire them, but then must return to the same questions that drove us toward the experience in the first place: “Can I find something that really lasts? Is there any bigger purpose to these experiences? Why do I still feel a sense of emptiness?”
Cultural route for happiness
You ---→ Event ---→ Happiness
But God offers a better way. In Christ, we can pursue experiences that He creates for us and enjoy them as good gifts from His hand. In the midst of the experience, we can deepen our relationship with Him through prayer- giving us an eternal perspective and ultimately producing a fuller satisfaction that transcends temporary experience. With our life anchored in Christ, the experience becomes an accessory to our relationship with Him, which is our final goal rather than the experience itself.
Christian’s route for happiness
You ---→ Event ---→Turn to God ---→ Deepen Relationship--→Happiness
This guide is meant to do something similar. As you watch the Super Bowl, we want to draw your attention to a few elements of the game so that when you see them, you are triggered to think of and pray to God.
Our culture—frequently even the Christian culture—fails to see how God and sport intersect.
It’s time to equip ourselves to engage the game differently by being properly conscious of the God who oversees all things. It’s time to flip the cultural script.
Atlanta is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and one of the most diverse gaining nearly 90,000 residents in the past three years. The city ranks as the ninth largest metropolitan area in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. You won’t have a problem spotting a church in the “A.” The city sits smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt with 76 percent of adults in the metro area identifying as Christian.
Along with its rich civil rights history, Atlanta is an international hub that continues to produce college graduates in record numbers and has been dubbed the Hollywood of the South with film studios peppered on the outskirts of town. The musical contributions from recording artists who call ATL home are plenty and with the newly crowned Atlanta United MLS team in town, the city’s sports scene is an exciting one to follow.
Take a Timeout: When the aerial shot of the city comes on your screen, pray for the people of Atlanta. Pray that God would use the local church and local ministries to spread the gospel throughout the city. Pray for those who claim to know Christ to truly surrender to Him.
Atlanta is sure to show some of its signature Southern hospitality as the host of the Super Bowl.
Over one million additional people will descend on the city, bringing with them an estimated $100-300 million dollars to spend.
Along with welcoming an influx of sports fans and revenue, the host city has to prepare to for a spike in criminal activity including human trafficking.
The Super Bowl and other large sporting events are considered magnets for traffickers. Last year, Minneapolis police arrested 94 men during a sex trafficking sting operation over the Super Bowl weekend. Georgia officials and national agencies fighting against sex abuse and exploitation have trained workers, volunteers, Uber drivers and others around the game on how to spot suspicious activity. Local, state, and federal officials have already arrested 33 people on sex-trafficking charges ahead of Sunday’s kickoff.
To learn more about the human trafficking industry and what you can do to help, go to: enditmovement.com
Take a Timeout: When you watch analysts and reporters on location, pray for the victims and survivors of human trafficking. Pray that the plans officials and volunteers have put in place work to bring victims to safety and aid in their escape.
While you’re on social media throughout the game, use the hashtag #HalftimeChallenge to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Since 1988, Athletes in Action has hosted an NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast on Saturday morning of Super Bowl weekend.
The breakfast is a platform to celebrate the Bart Starr Award winner. The award is given annually to honor an NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. This year’s honoree is Calais Campbell, defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Take a Timeout: Pray for Calais, his family, and previous award winners who know that with great influence comes great responsibility and even greater temptations that can hinder their impact. Pray also for the people who come to the breakfast, that they would be moved to surrender their lives to Jesus.
Let’s be real. You won’t have an impact on which team wins or loses this game. You do, however, have the opportunity to impact players' lives directly through prayer.
Take a Timeout: Click on the team roster and choose a few guys to pray for.
This won’t be Parry’s first rodeo. He’s a seasoned veteran is in his 12th season as a referee and 18th season overall as an NFL official. This will be his third time working the Super Bowl.
Imagine having to know the NFL rulebook from front to back, making snap judgements while trying to avoid getting hit by a player running downhill, and keeping a close watch on the game clock. Making decisions in that type of environment as well as interpreting the actions and intentions of players has got to be a tough job.
NFL referees have come under harsh scrutiny lately in response to the notorious no-call that many argue kept the New Orleans Saints from booking their short flight to Atlanta. As Christians, let’s remember that the refs, although they resemble zebras on the field, are in fact human and will make mistakes, large and small. Let’s give grace when we feel intense emotions from the calls (or no calls) the refs make.
Take a Timeout: Pray for Parry and the six other refs officiating the game. When the ref makes, in your estimation, a bad call, relax. Your friends and other party guests will notice your actions when the refs make a call you don’t agree with. If you’re watching with your kids, they’ll definitely take notice too. Be a model of grace for those around you and cut the refs some slack.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus commands us to do good works, but also, when we see good works, to glorify God. As a fan, your biblical mandate when you see someone act admirably on the field is to give glory to God! Let’s make this really practical.
One attribute that is so prevalent in sports culture is pride. Pride is essentially self-worship. Pride is refusing to believe and act in a way that shows God is the provider and sustainer of everything in your life.
“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). That is why we give God the glory—He alone deserves it.
The key word to focus in on for the Super Bowl is humility. Humility sits on the opposite end of the spectrum from pride.
Take a Timeout: Whenever you see someone display an act of humility, give glory to God. Here are some actions to look for:
- Helping an opponent get up from the ground
- Tossing the ball to the ref
- Giving credit to a teammate after a successful play
- Not yelling at the ref after a questionable call (or no call)
- Not drawing attention to oneself after a big play is made
- Rallying around a teammate after he makes a mistake
Using situations like those listed above should trigger your heart to give glory to God.
- “God, thank you that the world just saw that act of humility.”
- “God, your ways are better than the world’s”
- “God, thank you that Jesus was the ultimate example of humility.”
The TV Event
Although ratings have sagged in recent years, Sunday’s game is estimated to bring in more viewers than last year (103.4 million), but is expected to fall short of the record 114.4 million set in 2015. Last summer’s FIFA World Cup final had a global audience of 1.12 billion and nearly half of the world’s population watched the Rio Olympics.
Sport is a universal language unlike any other. As you are watching the game Sunday, there will likely be over 100 million people around the world watching it with you.
Take a Timeout: Pray that God uses the game to reveal a glimpse of Himself through the game and all its theatrics. For instance, if there is an unusual act of sportsmanship that causes you to think, “Why would they have done that?” a portion of those 100 million people will be asking the same question.
In that moment and others like it, pray that curious people would have an opportunity to meet a Christ-follower who can explain God’s transforming grace clearly and succinctly. Like the players, pray for a longing in people post-event for something more substantive- for an answer to the question, “Is that all there is?”
For a 30-second commercial this year, advertisers will be paying $5.25 million. They would not pay that much money to advertise their product if they didn’t think it would be worth the money. What makes it worth it to them?
The consumer’s discontentment with life. Yes, you and me. Advertisers convince us that we need their product. Not only do we buy into it, we buy it. As a Christian, our contentment shouldn’t come from things (or who wins a football game), but from the satisfying life that Christ offers.
Take a Timeout: When the game goes to commercial consider your own vulnerability to the tempting nature of “stuff.” Confess your own idolatry regarding the mindset “If I only had ___, then my life would be better,” and ask Jesus to be your contentment._
Super Bowl Runner Up
Getting to play in the Super Bowl is a huge accomplishment, but no team goes in wanting to come out of the game with a loss. The sting of defeat will definitely hurt and haunt players for a while. We’ll see a range of emotions as the scoreboard ticks down to 0:00 and the confetti falls from the ceiling. Some players will march down the tunnel with a head full of steam motivated to be one of few to play next February. Some will water the field with their tears. How players deal with defeat is just as important as how they deal with success.
In a culture that doesn’t love the idea of accepting losses well, it’s a chance for Christian players to be counter-cultural and explain why true contentment doesn’t come from the result of this game. True contentment stems from knowing the source of true worth and value which comes from the Lord.
Take a Timeout: Pray for the losing team. Pray that God would be glorified even in defeat. Pray that players -- especially the ones who claim to know Christ --would put the loss in the larger perspective of life and show how their faith informs their response to adversity.
Super Bowl Champions
Society sees the championship as the finish line. Vince Lombardi, the famed Packers coach the trophy is named after, had this to say:
“After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”
Although victory tastes sweet, there’s more to life than getting to hoist and kiss a seven pound, 22-inch-tall crown jewel made by Tiffany & Co.
Tom Brady, who’s making a historic ninth Super Bowl appearance on Sunday, famously said this in a 2005 interview with 60 Minutes: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there's something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it's gotta be more than this. I mean this can't be what it's all cracked up to be.”
When the game’s over, know that the excitement the players feel won’t last forever. At some point they will ask the question: “What’s next?”
Take a Timeout: Pray for the winners of the Super Bowl. After the TV show appearances, trips to Disney World, hometown parades and all the pageantry, the excitement from the big win will fade. Some will wonder why they feel such discontentment and search for deeper, sustained satisfaction.
Pray that their search would lead them to find out what who Christ is and what it means to have a relationship with the Savior. Pray that God would reveal Himself as the One who ultimately satisfies and is able to supply all their needs.
Winning is great. Spending eternity with God and claiming victory beyond competition is greater.