Justin Masterson got his second start for the Red Sox tonight (see blog on first start here), and tonight the bullpen did its job and he comes away with his first big league win. He went six and a third innings, giving up only one earned run (and that one came after he left the game). The Red Sox only scored two, but it was enough as Papelbon came on for the save.
During the game, I started wondering how much God cares about baseball. I remember since I was a kid being skeptical about praying for my team to win. But it seems to change things when we move from a generic prayer like that to a specific prayer about this individual player that we know. I find myself trying to suppress the prayer that involuntarily came to my lips with every payoff pitch, "God, let Justin strike that guy out." Because there is also someone that the batter knows who is praying for him to hit a home run on that same pitch. It seems like such prayers cancel each other out and make a mockery of God's involvement in the affairs of the world.
Yet, it doesn't seem wrong to pray, "Let him do his best." Is it problematic that "doing his best" seems to mean "pitching really well... and most likely winning"?? And every batter's mom is praying for him to do his best, which means getting a hit most of the time?! If this is what we mean, we're still stuck in a mode of thinking that our prayers are about affecting the outcome of the game. And in that theological masterpiece, Angels in the Outfield, we learned that at least championships have to be won on their own.
I'd like to think that "Let him do his best" means something closer to "Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." There is a sense that when anything is functioning as it ought to, it is reflecting the kingdom of God. I think this is true of the natural world just as much as the spiritual realm. But that doesn't mean that everything will always go the way we want it to go. Even when baseball players are functioning as they ought, they're going to win some and lose some. We can pray for peace for the player, for him to be free from distraction, to function as he is capable of; and I believe that God assists in those things. But especially in a game of baseball, there are lots of things that are left to chance. The kingdom mindset is that no matter the outcome, I know that all will be well. With that perspective, we can see how there could be things like games in heaven without both teams winning all the time!
Undoubtedly, Justin is going to pitch in some more major league games. And there are enough Christians in his life, that I'm sure there will be lots of people praying for him when he pitches. And I'll bet he'll win some of those games and lose some of them--and that won't be dependent on how fervently we're praying for him. Through it all, I'll keep praying that the kingdom of God will be evident through his pitching. (But it sure is fun when he wins!!)