I was watching the football game last week. The injury was not like others I have seen when I held my breath until the downed player started moving. It seemed like everything stopped in that stadium when Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills collapsed after a hard hit. Incredibly, maybe miraculously, the medical professionals worked to restore Hamlin’s heartbeat using CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the field. Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored after CPR was administered for more than eight minutes.1 (eight minutes!). The NFL did not know what to do—call the game or just delay it. We had not seen it like this before. Throughout the night, I checked my phone for updates and just before 2 am, learned 24-year-old Damar had indeed suffered cardiac arrest.
podcast of this Morning Briefing: https://www.pastorwoman.net/podcast/episode/220125d4/the-day-america-prayed-january-8-2023
But besides his serious injury, from which he has begun recovering--here is the great news for you and me: America prayed. And America prayed publicly. [prayer vigil in Buffalo pictured] Instead of sportscasters and fellow players saying, ‘our prayers are with you’– which is nice – they went one better than that and prayed! His fellow Bills hit their knees on the playing field, crying and praying, but one ESPN announcer said this, “I've heard the Buffalo Bills organization say that we believe in prayer, and maybe this is not the right thing to do, but it’s just on my heart, and I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now," he said on NFL Live. "I’m going to do it out loud, I’m going to close my eyes and bow my head, and I’m just going to pray for him." And then he did—on the air.
"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. And we want answers, but some things are unanswerable," he began. "We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar. Be with his family to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer works, we wouldn’t be asking you, God."
"I believe in prayer. We believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name. Amen," he concluded.2
All 32 NFL teams have included “Pray for Damar” on their Twitter avatars.. Countless fans and other concerned observers said on social media they were praying, and dozens linked arms outside his Cincinnati hospital.3
My mountain boy, Dylan, (Utah) brought it up on the phone actually – about how everyone was praying. He said, ‘you know, Mom, it’s funny – if I ever run into trouble, the first thing I do is pray…’ and then he kinda laughed. Was he thinking that was a silly thing to do? Hmmm.
Funny thing, I remember how many times I have heard that said on television over decades ‘our thoughts and prayers going up right now’ – after 9-11, Columbine shooting, Russian invasion of Ukraine, etc. but I propose we are more courageous than that. Let us be the one who says, ‘I believe in prayer, I believe in God, and I’m going to take a minute right now and pray to God that he will come…’
Huh, I remember one time in an airport far away, I was approaching my gate just as a man collapsed. I caught his head just before it hit the ground, as his wife was screaming for help… what a scene. I pulled a Dan Orlovsky. ‘Ma’am,’ I said, ‘I am going to pray for your husband right now…’ and so I bowed my head, as I held his head, and issued an urgent plea to God for help and mercy. Didn't cost a penny.
Dan Orlovsky’s bold faith would not allow him to say the easy thing, ‘our prayers are with you, man;’ no, he unabashedly prayed to the God who hears and heals. “But,” you say, “I could never do that! I would not know what to say.” Fair enough – say what Orlovsky said: We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar. Be with his family to give them peace. Prayer is more about reaching up for God, knowing he is the answer, than the exact words we pray.
All over America, people have responded by saying they are praying for Damar – that fills me with hope that we are not as godless or faithless as it sometimes seems. Be encouraged, Friend, and let us take God at his word: Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.4
I do not know what you are up against, but God does. Be courageous and pray. He is as close as you let him be. My Prayer for You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj_0pvIGkks
1 – Syracuse University News – best detail I found
3 – wgrz.com
4 – Jeremiah 29.12-13