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Comer: Realization of the power of prayer on display following Hamlin injury


By Ryan Comer - | Jan 7, 2023

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Ryan Comer

On Tuesday afternoon I was helping to put together a Pokemon Lego toy for my 8-year-old son. I had the TV going, which was on ESPN at the time, but I was so immersed in the project that I was barely paying attention. Then I heard one of the NFL analysts on the program, former quarterback Dan Orlovsky, say the following as they were discussing the situation with Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who has been hospitalized following a hit that resulted in cardiac arrest during this week’s Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals: “Maybe this is not the right thing to do, but it’s just on my heart that I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m going to do it out loud, I’m going to close my eyes, I’m going to bow my head and I’m just going to pray for him.” My focus instantly shifted from the toy to the TV and I watched as Orlovsky said a prayer.

“God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God and coming to you and praying to you has impact,” he said. “We’re sad, we’re angry and we want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar, to be with his family, to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer and we lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name. Amen.”

As the prayer was taking place, I took note of the co-hosts on set with Orlovsky, reporter Laura Rutledge and former NFL player Marcus Spears. Both of them had their heads bowed during the prayer, and at the end, they both said “Amen.”

“That’s beautiful,” Rutledge said.

“Respectfully,” Spears added.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see someone pray. According to a Gallup poll in June 2022, 81% of U.S. adults professed a belief in God. This was down 6% from 2017 and marked a new low in the poll, but 81% is still a significant majority. Forty-two percent said they believe God hears prayers and can intervene to help. That’s a much lower percentage, but it still constitutes a majority as 39% said God either hears prayers but cannot intervene or doesn’t hear them at all. Social pressures certainly make it harder for people to talk about praying, much less doing it in public. That was evidenced by Orlovsky’s own words when he acknowledged maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do, to which Spears immediately interjected, “It is!” Many have read and heard about the high school football coach in Washington state, Joe Kennedy, who was fired by the school district for praying on the field after games. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June in favor of Kennedy being reinstated to his previous position with the justices later saying the First Amendment protected the on-field prayers. Ultimately, Kennedy won the battle, but it’s been almost a decadelong ordeal for him. He was put on leave in 2015. Certainly, one can understand why many would feel trepidation about doing what Orlovsky did.

The reaction to Orlovsky’s prayer seems to be generally positive. Here is just a sampling of the support he received on Twitter:

For his part, Orlovsky tweeted, “Matthew 18:20 Let’s live out our faith right now for Damar.”

As I’ve been reflecting on what I saw and the reaction to it, the question “Why pray?” has been at the forefront of my mind. Orlovsky answered that when he said, “God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God and coming to you and praying to you has impact.”

One of my favorite Biblical stories regarding the power of prayer is that of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, as told in 2 Kings 18-19. Hezekiah was an example of faith and courage in the face of adversity seemingly impossible to overcome. The Assyrian army approached Jerusalem after invading Judah and destroying a number of cities and proceeded to taunt the people, boasting about the lands they had taken. Imagine being in Jerusalem at the time and the fear that you would have felt. It doesn’t seem like there was much reason to believe resistance was possible. Hezekiah sought counsel from the prophet Isaiah and prayed to God, asking him for help. The Lord’s response through Isaiah was that the Lord would defend the city without even a single arrow being shot against Jerusalem. It goes against all reason, but nothing is too hard for the Lord, and an angel of the Lord proceeded to kill 185,000 Assyrians. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, subsequently fled. Sennacherib went to worship his god before being killed by his sons. Hezekiah trusted the Lord, clave to Him and “departed not from following Him, but kept his commandments.” (2 Kings 18:6) As a result, “the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the King of Assyria, and served him not.” (2 Kings 18:7)

President Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about prayer during a general conference talk titled “Powerful Ideas” in October 1995. He said:

“A powerful idea with immediate practical application is the reality that we can pray to our Heavenly Father, and he will hear our prayers and help us in the way that is best for us. Most of us have experienced the terrible empty feeling that comes from being separated from those who love us. If we remember that we can pray and be heard and helped, we can always withstand that feeling of emptiness. We can always be in touch with a powerful friend who loves us and helps us, in his own time and in his own way.”

In his book “In the Eye of the Storm,” John H. Groberg told of an experience while on a sailboat in the Tongan Islands that taught him a lesson on prayer. Oaks referenced this during a general conference talk titled “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” in April 1994.

“We would always pray for protection, success, and good seas and wind to take us to our destination. Once I asked the Lord to bless us with a good tail wind so we could get to Foa quickly. As we got under way, one of the older men said, ‘Elder Groberg, you need to modify your prayers a little.’

“‘How’s that?’ I replied.

“‘You asked the Lord for a tail wind to take us rapidly to Foa. If you pray for a tail wind to Foa, what about the people who are trying to come from Foa to Pangai? They are good people, and you are praying against them. Just pray for a good wind, not a tail wind.’

“That taught me something important. Sometimes we pray for things that will benefit us but may hurt others. We may pray for a particular type of weather or to preserve someone’s life, when that answer to our prayer may hurt someone else. That’s why we must always pray in faith, because we can’t have true, God-given faith in something that is not according to His will. If it’s according to His will, all parties will benefit. I learned to pray for a good wind and the ability to get there safely, not necessarily a tail wind.”

As I’ve thought about how prayer has benefited me, I can think of a lot of situations that are probably familiar to a lot of people. I remember once struggling to find my wallet and feeling completely at a loss because I thought I had looked in every location it could have possibly been. Finally, I knelt down to pray and ask Heavenly Father where it was, and within seconds I felt myself being led to a place in the room where I noticed it. It was not in a spot I would have ever had reason to look. I think back to my Latter-day Saint mission, which I served in Taiwan. I had no background in Mandarin Chinese when I was called to serve there, and despite 12 weeks in the Missionary Training Center learning the language as much as possible, I felt completely inadequate when I arrived. My struggles were painfully but humorously evidenced early one afternoon when we were teaching a young college student at the church building. My companion left the room for a minute to get some materials from the library, leaving me on my own to somehow find a way to communicate with this person. He asked me if we could see ghosts. Unfortunately, I thought he was asking me if I could read Chinese, so I replied, “No. I just got to Taiwan, so I can’t yet. But my companion can.” My companion later told me, “So that’s why he was asking me during the lesson if there were ghosts nearby.” I spent many hours and many days wondering if I was ever going to learn the language, but I prayed to learn it, and I did — at least well enough to be trusted on my own without humiliating myself. I reflect on this often because I truly don’t believe in any other situation I could have learned Chinese.

The biggest blessing that has come from prayer, however, is peace and comfort, which comes from the realization that everything is according to God’s will. My wife suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years before passing away just before her 30th birthday in October 2018. I prayed very hard for very many nights for her to be healed, sometimes praying with such intensity and conviction that I truly did believe that she was going to be healed. There were moments that I believed that she was going to be able to recover and have no symptoms at all. This was not to be. Some might argue this is proof that prayer doesn’t help, but I would vehemently disagree because even though my prayer wasn’t granted, I felt a sense of peace and comfort that I know could only have been the result of praying. Prayer did work, even though it didn’t work exactly how I would have wanted it to. The night before Shannon passed away, I was in the room with her and our family members and I gave her a priesthood blessing. I knew that it was her time to go, and I wanted her to know that in case she was still hanging on because she was afraid of the impact her death would have on all of us. As I left the nursing home, I felt a sense of closeness to the spirit that is impossible to describe but that if everyone could feel they would never be able to deny. I just knew everything was the way it needed to be. The next day, she passed away, and though heartbroken, I knew God’s will had prevailed.

I know that praying to God has impact. I know this because I have felt that impact. In a tremendous display of faith and solidarity, all 32 NFL teams showed they believe praying to God can have impact by changing their Twitter profile photos to the same image of the number three, Hamlin’s jersey number, along with the words “PRAY FOR DAMAR.” I know that God loves us and that he wants what is best for us and that he can grant us what is best for us through our faithful prayers to him. I am grateful for all those who recognize that and are not afraid to show it.

Ryan Comer can be reached at rcomer@standard.net.


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