What Does Tim Tebow Pray For?

In a recent Football Freakonomics video about Tim Tebow, I made a connection between his faith and performance:

Tebow is hardly the first NFL quarterback to be demonstrative about his religious faith. But he’s very demonstrative – and it’s worth considering how that faith may affect his play. By definition, faith often translates into a kind of fearlessness. Tim Tebow doesn’t seem to be familiar with the phenomenon known as “fear of failure.” His belief – in himself, and in success – may be the intangible that lifts not only his own play, but of those around him.

(Photo: Jeffrey Beall)

What I hadn’t thought about at the time was exactly what Tebow prays for on the field or the sidelines. I assumed he prayed for personal strength, or guidance, or safety. Not, however, for the Broncos to win or the opponents to lose.

That assumption was strengthened the other day when I read a really interesting Wall Street Journal op-ed by former quarterback great Fran Tarkenton, headlined “Does God Care Who Wins Football Games?” He makes clear that in the NFL, at least during his era, it was okay to pray for health and strength but not for victory.

But then I happened to read Ben McGrath‘s excellent New Yorker article (gated!) about Don Bosco Preparatory School, a Catholic football powerhouse in Ramsey, New Jersey. In this case, praying for victory is part of the game:

Father Manny Gallo, a thirty-one-year-old theology teacher with a shaved head and a goatee, addressed the players—there were more than a hundred—before a recitation of the Hail Mary. He began by apologizing for the fact that, “because I’m a priest,” he wouldn’t be able to say certain inspirational words. “Jesus Christ will teach you two things today,” he said. “The first thing is, when Jesus was carrying that Cross, defeat was not on his mind. Victory was on his mind!” The boys listened solemnly. “The second thing, gentlemen, that Jesus Christ can teach us is that weakness was not in his heart. So when you feel pain, when you feel like vomiting, when you feel nervous, when you feel that you can’t no more, think about that.”

And that’s what made me want to know what, exactly, Tim Tebow prays for. Turns out my assumption was totally wrong. Here’s a Dan Wetzel column about a dramatic Broncos win in November.

“That was a huge play,” Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow said. Yes, there was the rookie linebacker making a clutch, overtime tackle of San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert for a four-yard loss. The play forced the Chargers into a just-too-long 53-yard overtime field goal attempt that wound up off course.

Not that Tebow saw either play.

“I can’t say I saw too much of it,” Tebow said. “I was praying.”

Praying for a miss?

“I might have said that,” Tebow laughed. “Or maybe a block. Maybe all of it.”


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  1. Shane says:

    Haha. He was obviously joking around.

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  2. Good and Godless says:

    Believers have to realize praying is cheating.

    Divine intervention is “too many players on the field”.

    If it is not a foul then gods are not real.

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  3. lev says:

    What Tebow should pray for is a sense of humor for Stephen J. Dubner.

    That comment at the presser was a joke. If you weren’t so half-arsed with your blogging a simple google search would have yielded the actual text of his prayer, which was broadcast on national TV after the Bears game:

    “Lord put a wall of protection around me and my teammates today so we can go out there and honor you with everything we do and say.”

    In another clip Tebow prays:

    “Lord I need you to come through for me. Win or lose give me the strength to honor you.”

    If he did pray for victory he’s be no different from the ancient Israelites who prayed for the genocide of their enemies such as the Philistines by massacring chattel, or Confucians who burn incense to pray for success in business ventures or school exams. Not sure why WHAT someone prays for is any of our business but there you have what Tebow in fact does pray for when he does Tebow.

    -signed, agnostic but not ignorant

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  4. matt says:

    Like others, I believe this was a joke. Perhaps you’re joking? Anyways, I have a problem with the statement that he’s more demonstrative with religion than others. Do a google image search of “athlete pray” or virtually any variation on it. You’ll find a few Tebows which is to be expected (ESPN surveys call him the most popular athlete in America), but mostly it’s other athletes. If you have more time on your hands, watch a football game that does not include Tim Tebow and study the kickers and punters and their teams during field goals. If the camera shows the kickers, I’d estimate at least 2/3 of them point to the sky after made field goals, and many teams have players making kneeling prayers during important, if not all field goals. A lot of punters do it too after successful corner kicks. If you consider that a kicker’s on the field for about 5 seconds of game play, if he spends half of his TV time pointing to God I’d say that’s a better ratio than Tebow.

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  5. steven says:

    Putting Prayer in Its Place

    Jesus’ instruction on prayer in Matthew begins this way:

    “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

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  6. jblog says:

    Considering the numerous examples of very bad behavior by professional athletes — from acts of violence, to animal cruelty, to drug use — it kind of makes me wonder why so many people obsess about what Tim Tebow is doing at all.

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  7. Hermes says:

    Tim Tebow is a true hero of the faith. He is never ahamsed of his love for Jesus and is very outspoken about it. This is the exact example of a sports player that our kids need today. Dedication to the Lord, and the knowledge that everything comes from Him. This attitude is nothing new, unfortunetly, as we have seen many NFL players be ridiculed for their outspoken faith in Jesus, namly Kurt Warner, L.T., Sam Bradford and Reggie White, God rest his soul. These men, and there are more are men we can all learn from and gleen the love of Jesus from by their example. Way to go Tebow! Please Jesus, and not the

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  8. Curtis Dunham says:

    Thats what makes a prayer, a spell or even a curse work.
    I truly hope, for Tebow’s sake – and that of his new found cult, that his prayers are Not to “win a stupid game played by barbarians” – but for the Safety and Enjoyment of all the participants.

    He should be praying that all that human energy raised under a “dome” – after the game is over, be used to save the human race and mother earth.

    I hope he is saying “Thankyou God, for allowing me to live another day, to play in whats left of Your Garden, and to be able to Love Everybody here. Please use all the energy we generate today to save mankind, to heal the dying and sick, to give courage to those in fear, and to help those who are helpless.”

    Aloha is the only prayer I need personally, but then again – to each his own.

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