On Sunday afternoon I saw Steven Piennar equalise for Everton against Man Utd at Old Trafford, taking the score to 4-4, and making the championship run in that little bit more interesting. But even more exciting to me than the game was Piennar’s celebration after his goal. Lifting up his shirt, he revealed a black T-shirt underneath, emblazoned with the words ‘GOD IS GREAT.’
I think God is doing something through sport at the moment. In various disciplines, sports stars seem to increasingly becoming people of faith, and people who are unashamed of talking about Jesus. The reaction to the collapse of Fabrice Muamba from across the sports world is the most obvious recent example. Players from all teams and all nationalities united together in support, and many asked people to pray for Fabrice. Messages included:
- “Doesn’t matter who you support. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t a football fan. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t religious. Pray for Fabrice Muamba.” Kyle Walker, Spurs defender.
- “Everybody is praying for Fabrice which is very important and that has been a real source of strength to the family.” Owen Coyle, Bolton manager.
- “Terrible what happened with Muamba during the game. We’re all praying for him.” Rafael Van de Vaart, Spurs midfielder.
An image of Van de Vaart praying on the pitch immediately after seeing Muamba’s collapse became one of the most popular images on Twitter. And during the initial moments, and throughout his miraculous recovery after not breathing for 78 minutes, the phrase “pray for Muamba” was one of the highest trends on Twitter. Gary Cahill (former Bolton colleague, current Chelsea defender) also showed the same message during one game.
But it’s not only in football. Back in January 2012 I caught the end of an athletics competition at Crystal Palace on TV, and was amazed by the number of winning athletes who thanked God for their skills, and their victories. I think God is using sport as a means of communicating to the nation at the moment. Every winning athlete gets mobbed by journalists wanting to find the secrets of their success, and so many at the moment are happy to give the credit to Jesus.
So my prayer for London 2012 is boldness from Christian athletes in testifying about Jesus, and that the media broadcast those testimonies across the nation, and across the world. What difference could that make to the spiritual climate of Britain? To see the most talented athletes in the world gather in our capital, and time after time give the praise and glory to God for all of their success? Let’s pray it!
Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s also passionate about praying for London, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.