March 11March 11 Editorial: A time to play, a time to pray (January 13, 2023)

January 13, 2023

Editorial

A time to play, a time to pray

It is a powerful thing when people come together in prayer.

It is even more powerful when that number grows exponentially throughout an entire nation and its communities that number in the hundreds, thousands and more.

By now, most of you have heard the story of Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills’ football player who was critically injured during a Monday night football game on Jan. 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hamlin’s injury, which occurred after making what appeared to be a routine tackle, was so serious that the safety went into cardiac arrest while laying on the field. CPR had to be performed to resuscitate him.

Both teams were so visibly shaken by the sight of a teammate and opponent on the field lifeless that many players cried. Others immediately began praying for the fallen Hamlin.

The remainder of the game was eventually postponed that night, then cancelled by the NFL. Nearly every player—both active and retired—who has discussed the incident said it reminded them there are more important things in life than a game.

What has followed since is a remarkable witness of faith. Players, fans and people from all walks of life have been praying for Hamlin.

Social media has become a lifeline of communication for all who wanted to offer petitions for the seriously injured player. The NFL posted an image of Hamlin’s team number “3” with the words “Pray for Damar” across its social media accounts.

The University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where the player was transported after his injury, became a place where people came to pray for the Bills player and leave cards, notes and other remembrances to let Hamlin know he was in their thoughts and prayers.

One of the most powerful acts took place on ESPN when football analyst and former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky offered a prayer live on television.

“Maybe this is not the right thing to do,” Orlovsky said before praying. “It’s just on my heart that I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now.”

“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,” prayed Orlovsky. “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 them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer … worked, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer, and we lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name, Amen.”

Those like Orlovsky who have played the game call it a “brotherhood.” And to see faith come to the forefront for them and impact so many lives beyond football offers a powerful example of how we can imitate Jesus and be his disciples through our actions.

On Jan. 9, University of Cincinnati Medical Center doctors released Hamlin to the Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., where according to an official statement he is listed in stable condition and “continues to make significant progress in his recovery.”

His high school’s recently-retired head football coach Terry Totten described Hamlin as “a great athlete and a great Christian gentleman who is a man for others.”

Totten also pointed to Hamlin’s “unparalleled” work in the Pittsburgh community through the athlete’s charitable foundation, The Chasing M’s Foundation Community Toy Drive, which he started just before his selection in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft. Before his injury, Hamlin had a goal of raising $2,500 for the charity. Because of the kindness of others, more than $8 million has been donated in the past week.

Faith continues to be a staple of Hamlin’s life. In an Instagram post on Jan. 7, he wrote, “When you put real love out into the world it comes back to you 3x’s as much. The love has been overwhelming, but I’m thankful for every single person that prayed for me and reached out. We brung the world back together behind this.”

As James Brown of CBS’s “The NFL Today” television show said, “A week that started in disaster ended in a miracle.”

His colleague at CBS, Jim Nantz, noted this tragedy offered “a glimpse of humanity at its very best.”

But Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott may have said it best when he cited the power of prayer and added, “When people come together, love makes us so much better.”

—Mike Krokos

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