Knockin' on heaven's door

June 12, 2006

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A WORLD CUP TO PROMOTE A GLOBAL PRAYER REVIVAL OF SORTS! The current World Cup finals in Germany are prompting millions around the world to pray-albeit for unabashed nationalistic glory! After their team scored three times in the last eight minutes of today’s game, snatching a late victory from the Japanese, many Aussies no doubt would be conceding that there just might be a God, And his name, some would say, was Guus.

The Brazilians, however, have been the most consistent and public prayers on the pitch in recent years. The 1994 World Cup final held in the United States ended in a goalless draw between Brazil and Italy. The penalty shoot-out would decide whether or not Brazil could win the Cup again after a 24-year drought.

Then, as now, the Brazilian team’s official chaplain was the former Formula One driver Alex Ribeiro. He had regularly prayed with the whole team, several of whom were born-again believers. In this final match, he had sent them onto the pitch with a memory verse, Psalm 20 verse 7: “Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.’

In his book, Who won the 1994 World Cup?, Ribeiro described the crucial showdown between goalkeeper Taffarel and Italy’s pony-tailed Roberto Baggio. The Brazilian keeper, a devout evangelical pastor, prayed silently as Baggio, a convert to Buddhism from Catholicism, stepped backwards. Then he shot the ball towards the goal‚Ķ and high into the crowd! Over a billion viewers worldwide saw the dejected Baggio transfixed on the penalty spot, head down; Taffarel was kneeling in the goal, hands raised in thanksgiving to God. The jubilant Brazilian team converged onto the centre of the field forming a huddle to say the Lord’s Prayer together.

Secular Europeans respond awkwardly to the Brazilians’ open display of devotion. Later, when Brazil won the Confederations Cup, German commentators were simply left speechless when the whole Samba team knelt midfield in a circle to pray.

Neither was the English squad prepared to follow Brazil’s example. It left for Germany without a chaplain. “We have never had a chaplain,” reasoned a Football Association official, although that is not true for other English sports teams such as cricket.

Yet church leaders across Europe, and especially in Germany, realise that the World Cup creates many opportunities for spiritual dialogue. “You don’t find many atheists during penalty shoot-outs,” a spokesman of the Church of England observed last week. He was commenting on the thousands of extra hits received on the Church’s official website after a prayer for the England team was posted. “The church often provides specially written prayers to mark national events, and the World Cup is no exception,” he said.

Gloucester Cathedral site has also posted a World Cup Prayer on its website: “May we be blessed with the gifts of a football team,” it reads. “As goalkeepers may we keep out the fierce shots of prejudice, racism, and greed, saving others from the penalties of poverty and disease. Working together as a strong back four, may we defend the goal of fullness of life for the oppressed and vulnerable . . . and may the best team win!”

In 16,000 buildings of the Evangelical Church of Germany – – all 64 games are being shown through a special arrangement with football and media authorities. After the matches, multilingual pastoral care, prayer and discussions about fair play, disappointment and even miracles are being offered.

Following the KickOff preparations in Schloss Hurlach last week, YWAM teams from every continent fanned out across Germany to work alongside churches in evangelism, prayer and pastoral ministry. As multi-national teams, their goal is not to pray for divine assistance for one team or another. Rather they want to grasp every opportunity to share about a Father God who offers to coach and assist each of us to become victors in life.

And that’s how we can all be involved in this year’s Cup finals – by praying for many to accept His priceless offer of a contract for life.

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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