Unless you are a Buffalo Bills fan or a die-hard NFL fan, odds are you didn’t know who Damar Hamlin was before the Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2.
Hamlin’s going into cardiac arrest during a nationally televised football game in Cincinnati changed everything. Hamlin, a defensive back for the Bills, stood up after making contact with the receiver, but then suddenly dropped to the turf.
It soon became clear that this was not a typical football injury, like a broken bone or concussion. It was far worse. The looks on the faces of the players let all of us know that this was a matter of life and death.
Trainers and paramedics worked on Hamlin before an ambulance took him to a Cincinnati hospital in critical condition. The game was postponed, and eventually canceled. A stadium full of loud and enthusiastic fans became remarkably quiet as the two teams solemnly walked to their respective locker rooms.
Before the teams left the field though, a remarkable thing occurred. Many joined together in a big circle and prayed on their knees.
What started as a so-called important football game turned into a prayer meeting.
But why? America is a country that has thumbed its nose at God for years. Prayer has long been banned in public schools, although it has been said that as long as teachers give math tests, it will be impossible to stop students from praying.
One broadcaster, retired quarterback Dan Orlovsky, even bowed his head and audibly prayed the following day on ESPN’s “NFL Live” program, likely a first on that channel or program.
Orlovsky prayed, “God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God, and coming to you and praying to you has impact. We’re sad, we’re angry, we want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar, to be with his family, to give him peace.
“If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer,” Orlovsky continued. “We believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name, Amen.”
Nationwide, people of many faiths and no faith likely prayed for Hamlin. As a Christ follower who believes in God, I also believe there’s something inside everyone that holds out hope that there is someone, or a God, who is bigger and greater than we are.
Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, wrote “But why did an increasingly secular country, where faith and prayer are routinely derided and mocked, suddenly turn its collective eyes upward to God? What’s going on?
“Cynics might chalk this week up to raw emotion, but I think something much deeper and more important is going on. Even though many may not be able to articulate it, there’s a spiritual hunger in America – and it manifests in a variety of ways, but especially in times of crisis,” wrote Daly.
The incident reminded us that life is fragile for us all, and that we are vulnerable.
Discussing the platform God gave Hamlin to give back to his community through his charitable work, Hamlin recently said, “I feel like that’s God talking to me. I really feel like that’s what my purpose is. That’s why He put me here.”
Daly wrote: “Much has been made this past week about the violent aspects of football. League officials are regularly looking for ways to make the sport safer, and that’s a good thing. But the core issue isn’t the violence on the field – it’s the violence off of it, including the dysfunction and cultural challenges caused by the collapse of the family and America’s abandonment of its spiritual core. Historically, faith and family have been foundational to our nation’s stability – and it remains the way forward.
“Let’s continue to pray for Damar Hamlin, and may this difficult moment not be squandered, but instead used to turn hearts and minds back to the Great Physician who loves and cares for Damar, you and me,” wrote Daly.