By Rev. Michael J. Schmidt
It was July 1994, the Major League Baseball All Star game had ended, and I was getting ready to go to bed. I put on my PJ’s, brushed my teeth, and then I prayed. Now I had prayed before, during church and before meals, but this was serious: A player’s strike was imminent, and the baseball season was in danger. After years of watching the Yankees lose, they were finally having a playoff season (the first in my lifetime), and now a strike was threatening everything.
From June through August 1994, I was on my knees every single night, praying like crazy, offering God anything and everything if He would just do the seemingly impossible and bring the players and the owners together and save the baseball season. But it was not meant to be. On August 12th, the players went on strike. Then in mid-September the commissioner announced that there would be no World Series that year. I was crushed. Football meant nothing to me, and I had not really gotten into basketball. Baseball was everything and now it was gone. And if you think that maybe that’s a bit too idolatrous, well, read on and see how the Lord works even our selfish prayers for good!
As I think back, I can grin about it and realize how, amidst all the other problems of the world, I was praying for baseball. However, it did teach me some things.
First, it taught me that whenever we pray, we are placing all of our trust and hope in God—that He can bring about a desired outcome. In 1994, President Clinton invited the players and owners to the White House to try to find a resolution, only to find that there was nothing he could do to bring the sides to a compromise. There was literally no human way to find a resolution. This, of course, led me to place all of my hope in God, that He might solve the problem.
Second, it taught me how to pray. At first my prayers were basically, “Dear God, please help the players and owners so they do not go on strike. Amen.” As the summer wore on the prayers grew, not only in length and detail, but also in structure and form. Believe it or not, the prayers began to follow the five parts of the traditional collect form: address; thanksgiving, request, desired result, and closing.
Third, it got me in the habit of praying. During those months of praying for baseball, I also began to pray for other things: weather, safe travels, the sick and world events. It eventually got to the point where I did not really stop praying before bed even after the strike and canceling of the World Series; how could I when all these other things needed to be prayed for?
Fourth, and probably most importantly, praying also led me to accept God’s answers. There was a strike in 1994 and it did cancel the rest of the season and the World Series; not to mention the beginning of the 1995 season. But that is how God works when answering prayer: Sometimes God answers, “Yes” and sometimes, “No” and then there are those times when He just says, “Wait.” I was crushed when the players went on strike, but by then I knew that it must have been what God wanted.
God seemed to have had something bigger in mind through all of this. He used a baseball strike to get me into the habit of praying. I pray daily to this very day: in the morning, at meals, in church, and before bed, or simply whenever the opportunity arises. It’s a great reminder that the same Lord who has commanded us to pray and promised to hear us didn’t hold my selfish desire against me, but in His mercy and grace taught me to trust in Him even more for ALL things.
Rev. Michael Schmidt serves at Peace Lutheran Church in Natoma, Kansas and blogs at http://revschmidt.wordpress.com/ and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org