Pray for Quay

Monday night, January 2, was widely anticipated by NFL fans. Two AFC powers with young marquee quarterbacks, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills would square off in Cincinnati in a game with massive playoff implications. By the evening’s end, it was possible that fans would have seen one of the greatest regular season games in a long time. Then it happened.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a most routine tackle, sprang to his feet, and collapsed. He had gone into cardiac arrest. For some ten minutes, those at the game and a national viewing audience held their collective breath as medical professionals worked to restore Hamlin’s heartbeat. Every ESPN personality covering the game called repeatedly for the audience to pray for Hamlin. I did that night and the next morning. I asked God to do what He is famous for and provide miraculous healing. He did just that.

Hamlin’s recovery, while far from complete, has astounded doctors. I just chalk it up to answered prayer. Millions of people prayed for Damar Hamlin. God listened and said yes. Six days later, another interaction between a pro football player and a medical trainer would garner global headlines. But they would be nothing like those accompanying the Damar Hamlin story.

During the Lions-Packers game at Lambeau Field, a medical trainer walked onto the field to tend to an injured Lions player. On his way to the injured player, he brushed by Packers rookie linebacker Quay Walker. Walker then shoved the trainer and was ejected from the game. Earlier in the season Walker was ejected for shoving a staff member of the New York Giants. While that incident garnered little attention, Walker was scorched on social media and by professional sports commentators. As bad as it was, the shove coming six days after medical professionals were called heroes for saving Hamlin magnified the episode. Walker has since apologized, but it’s speculated that he will be suspended to start the 2023 season.

I know of no one who has called for prayers for Quay Walker, and I suspect few have been praying for him. I have been and will continue to do so. Some people might find the notion of praying for Walker puzzling, shocking or perhaps even offensive. After all, as put it, Walker has gained a reputation as a “hot head.” That is exactly why I’m praying for him. But the default setting for millions of people when someone is caught behaving badly on video is to rip them mercilessly on social media.

Have you ever prayed for one of the people caught on video displaying racism against an African American or other minority? Or for politicians who display in-public offensive behavior? I haven’t. Yet, as Christ-followers we are called to pray for those who offend just as we are to pray for the afflicted. Jesus prayed for those who put Him to death:

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:33-34(NIV)

Jesus also urged us to show the grace to others that His Father shows us:

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25 (NIV)

This is not to say that Quay Walker shouldn’t face the consequences of his actions. But I am praying that a talented young man with a bright future turns to God to control a temper that he cannot seem to control himself. All glory to God for the miraculous healing of Damar Hamlin, the answer to millions of prayers. But let’s not forget that heart surgery is His specialty. Let us pray for Quay Walker and all of those who offend us, personally or otherwise.

— Pastor Jerry Bader

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