Controversy and drama in the NFL, are you serious? Yes, there is more and this time it is not regarding domestic violence. The yellow flag was thrown last night and the sports world of the Internet has been in an uproar. It has flooded into the religious realm now, too.
Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs was flagged 15 yards after intercepting a Tom Brady pass and taking it in for a touchdown. He slid to his knees in adulation and began to pray to his Muslim god. The referee threw the flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Now before Jihad breaks out, no, the referee is not anti-Muslim. As far as I know he is not even a Christian. He is an official of the NFL and was simply enforcing the rules to his understanding.
“Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) states ‘players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.’
Today the NFL declared that the official should not have flagged the player since he was praying and not participating in excessive celebration. And now many sports writers are railing about the unfair treatment of Abdullah, when to my knowledge, Abdullah isn’t making a big deal of it. Darin Ganny, in his blog on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com bickered:
Karen Anderson, similarly complained, and tweeted:
Well let’s break out the violins and the paid mourners for this injustice, why don’t we. Yes, there should be equality to pray, regardless of what religion you are. We are in the U.S. of A! Yes, there ought to be rules for excessive celebration, and yes the NFL does need to clarify this rule. But let’s hope the NFL does not do this because of fear of the new Muslim sympathizers or social pressure.
At least writer Brian Floyd from SBNation got it right.
“No, the NFL did not flag Husain Abdullah because of his religion. Abdullah wasn’t targeted because he is Muslim, and this wasn’t the NFL making some big statement about cracking down on prayer. Instead, the NFL accidentally flagged a player for praying because its rules are unwieldy and judgment is left to humans trying to process what’s happening in front of them at breakneck speed.”
Well said. Dan Patrick mentioned in his show this morning something similar. He said that if we allow prayer in touchdown celebrations but not touchdown celebrations themselves than we open up all kinds of issues. What if there are some pagans that have 3 minute prayer vigils where they worship their god or gods? Would that be protected? What if players want to argue that part of their praying is dancing the Ickey Shuffle, would that be protected as well? There needs to be consistency for sure, but this was not religious intolerance.
Now there are many issues attached to this that are very significant, one being this newfound support of Muslims by much of Western media, despite the carnage being committed by so many Muslims around the world. Another issue is that of the ever increasing intolerance of Christianity in a world of tolerance that is now encroaching on the Sports world.
But I want to point out that regardless of whether or not all players are allowed to express their religious views, we as Christians know that what this football player did is not true prayer. Now that might sound harsh and intolerant at first, but truly it is not.
To simply state that someone is not correct in a claim they make or an action they take is how we have all learned things and have become educated. To buy in to the postmodern bigoted view of tolerance is to actually be intolerant.
Going to God with Confidence
Many of us have prayed incorrectly for years (and some still do). It wasn’t until someone taught us to pray that we began to pray properly. Jesus’ own disciples saw the power and effectiveness of his prayer life and asked him how to pray (after 30 years of growing up in a praying religion).
“Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1
In one of the classic books regarding the subject, Prayer, John Bunyan wrote:
“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.” – John Bunyan, Prayer, 32
This Puritan preacher rightly identified, in his classic definition of prayer, that if one is to engage in true prayer he must go through Christ. This is the clear teaching of Scripture and can be expounded further if needed.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6
There is no other way. To speak, pray, meditate to “God” without knowing Christ is actually not speaking, praying, or meditating to God. John Bunyan said it like this:
“to say God is your Father, in a way of prayer or conference, without any experiment of the work of grace in your souls, it is to say you are Jews and are not, and so do lie. You say, Our Father; God says, You blaspheme!” – John Bunyan, Prayer, 51
We must be born from above. This is the only way by which we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb. 4:12). It is in the sphere of union with Christ that people can have “boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:12) to approach God in prayer. The apostle John wrote about this confidence:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:13-14
Those who adhere to solus Christus, that Christ alone is the only mediator between the Father and humanity, can confidently come into his presence in prayer. What a tremendous privilege we have!
To know that God by his grace initiates salvation, regenerates people, gives them faith to believe, gives them the ability to respond, gives them grace to live for him, and makes the way to come into the presence with confidence as family members– and all through the cross-work of Jesus Christ – this is extraordinary.
For this reason, because of the wonderful riches of God’s grace toward us in Christ Jesus, we ought to be known for being a praying people. Prayer ought to be part and parcel of our daily lives. Those around us ought to see our lifestyle and recognize that we have spent time with the true God. “Prayer is the highest activity of the human soul,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones declared. When we spend quality time with the Lord it will be shown.
We need to share this glorious truth with our Muslim neighbors. Those Muslims who truly want to know God need to hear this good news that is not contained in the Koran – the good news that they can communicate and commune with the Living God when they come to Christ in faith and repentance. All other attempts to come to God fail miserably and lead us into mere mumbling amongst ourselves and not true prayer.
More can be said on this topic. And more prayer must take place as we see the political, religious, and philosophical landscape of the West becoming more and more uneducated and intolerant toward the truth. In the meantime, let us live by grace and for his glory.
Growing up in the east side of Moreno Valley, California, by way of Detroit, Michigan, liking all sports Detroit, while adding at the tender age of 8 a love for the Denver Broncos, a product of the public education system yet somehow by the grace of God managed to get some graduate degrees, serving the Lord out of Sovereign Grace of Perris, coaching Thai boxing and teaching and preaching the Word, also a proud father of 3, and husband to a faithful daughter of Abraham.
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