I love NCAA basketball. I live and die with the Kansas Jayhawks. I died early this year.
There is a marker I use in watching games (if I can) early in the NCAA tournament: If a high seed team rolls through their first two games, taking care of business and not letting a much lower ranked team hang around in the game, it bodes well for how that highly ranked team will do the next weekend.
Thus far, that formula has not failed when I gauge my Jayhawks. And this year I got to watch the first round game so I KNEW I was in trouble. The Jayhawks had a decent final score in their first round, but they toyed around with the other team far too long. And then, when KU was pulling away, the camera focused on the KU bench. They were jumping around like they had just won the state high school tournament. That’s when I knew KU would lose the next game… and they did. (I knew it before that and filled all my brackets out accordingly. I have proof.)
Here’s why I use that gauge: solid, mature teams don’t jump around like they won the whole thing in the first game of the tournament. Not when you’re supposed to win that game. You go out, you stomp the opponent, you shake hands, and you get back to the hotel to get ready for the next game. Take care of business.
Immature teams (which is what KU had this year) don’t know how to take care of business yet. They might get lucky and “come together” at the right time. If they do, they don’t jump around on the sideline when they win a game they’re supposed to win. They get business done, they shake hands, and they head out to prepare for the next thing.
So, what in the world does this have to do with prayer?
Attitude. Taking care of business. Maturity.
We’ve been interceding for a missionary friend, Steve, who is literally battling for his life. The past four weeks have been intense in prayer. The first week of this battle it was awful. Steve was in a coma for seven days… and then he woke up. Then, he just kept improving like crazy. Everyone rejoiced. We knew to keep praying… but in some sense there was some jumping around on the sidelines. Not by everyone. I can never speak for everyone. But, there was a sense that… WOW. And no kidding… it was WOW. Jumping around was called for.
Then, a couple of days ago, after battling another serious setback… Steve went home. He was doing great!
More jumping around on the sidelines. WOW… and who wouldn’t jump a little bit? Come on!
But the very next day… Steve was back in the hospital and is now battling AGAIN. New problems. Huge problems. This time it’s a pulmonary embolism (I believe it’s called). HUGE obstacles.
Back to prayer we go!
Then, tonight… Steve woke up again! No pain. Ready to eat. Joking around.
More jumping on the sidelines.
This is where I need to coach myself better. Quit jumping around on the sidelines. This isn’t the final game. This isn’t the “Sweet 16” or the “Final Four.”
I need to pray like it’s business. I can absolutely rejoice when Steve makes a recovery, but I need to do so with a bit more gravitas in mind. This game isn’t over.
I am on the superior team. My “coach” wins championships. He knows what he is doing.
What I need to do is this: pound the enemy in prayer until he’s pulverized. Just keep praying.
When Steve gets to the mission field… great. But stop praying? Are you kidding me?
I need to quit acting like a freshman basketball player and start acting like I’ve been to the tournament a few times. Pray hard. Pound the enemy. Win. Go home and get ready for the next round.
I can rejoice. Absolutely. I just need to realize… it’s only one round.