Why They Prayed
It was one of those moments when everything stopped. On the telecast, it seemed as if a hush descended on the entire stadium of 107,000 plus people. In one of the few unscripted moments that mark the liturgy of Penn State football, here was a sudden but welcome intrusion.
Both teams came to midfield, knelt down, and were led in prayer. Not a short prayer, certainly not a token prayer, but a heartfelt prayer. A prayer that acknowledged the victims of child abuse. That acknowledged the safety concerns of everyone present. That acknowledged the heartache of the previous week. That acknowledged the players who were about to play what they all knew was just a game.
But most of all, the prayer acknowledged God. It acknowledged that he is real, that he was present, and that he needed to be paid attention to. Because while there had been a lot of talk about Sandusky, Paterno, Spanier, and the football team the previous week, there hadn’t been much attention paid to God himself.
There’s something about sin in it’s most undeniable, awful, ugly, depraved forms that reminds us of our need for God, though. After the week we had here, the right response was to pray. While people in other cities make light of “Tebowing,” there was no argument about two entire teams “Tebowing” here. The stillness that settled over the crowd was the realization–even if just for a moment–that God needs to be part of this conversation. God needs to be acknowledged. No amount of candlelight vigils or dollars raised can cover over our collective guilt. And so a humbled, shamed crowd , watching in person, or watching on TV, quieted themselves and acknowledged God.
I don’t know how long that moment will last. I know that after 9/11, many people were moved to go to church, but the following Sunday churches were back to normal. My suspicion is that it will be the same here. But at least for one moment, people acknowledged God. May that not be the end of it.