Road to Rio: U.S. Men’s Soccer Goalie Tim Howard on Faith and Prayer
As countries send their teams to compete at the Olympics, many fans will be watching the soccer games. Afterall “football” is one of the world’s most popular sports. It is estimated that 3.5 billion people either watch or play football. According to U.S. Youth Soccer, in America alone there are more than three million youth that are registered soccer players. In 1974, there were a little over 100,000. U.S. Goalkeeper Tim Howard is no stranger to the Olympics or World Cup. According to U.S. Soccer, Howard has the most wins (55) and appearances (104) among U.S. goalkeepers, and also sits in second place in shutouts (35). We caught up with Tim Howard two years ago and talked about how he became a Christian and how he lives out his faith on and off the field.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” Philippians 2:1-3
Tim reflected on how his grandmother was instrumental in him coming to Christ and how her joy impacted him.
“I didn’t grow up going to church and I didn’t grow up being a believer [spiritually]. But I’m obviously a believer [now]. That started at a young age, I had some very positive influences in my family. My grandmother, who unfortunately just recently passed away, was an amazing woman of Christ. She was always in church on Sunday…It was from her that I learned that joy can only come through your personal relationship with God.”
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-17
Tim opened up on how his faith affects his perspective on the sport and what his prayers look like.
“It doesn’t affect the way I physically go out and perform. I certainly ask the Lord for things in prayer before the game. Most of the time, if not all the time, it’s for the ability to perform to my standards. That may be in a win or a loss, but to play well, injury free, and to do things in the right way. In competition and in sports, sometimes emotions take over and you may lose your focus a little. It’s important to have intent going into a game tan dot play for the glory of God…The funny part about all that was we played Mexico to qualify for the World Cup. And one of my arch rivals is Chicarito, [Mexican star forward, Manchester United]…He prays before the game, and I pray before the game. He was over on the other side of the field praying and I was praying, and I just thought, ‘Boy, Gods got a lot on his plate right now.’ I know what he is praying for – we will see. It was an interesting thought to be thinking about just two seconds before the whistle blew. It just goes to show that we are praying to the same God and it’s about Him. I thought it was a pretty cool illustration.
From day one, having faith in a profession like mine has always been my focus. Here is one of the main reasons, as an athlete why I need to have faith. Yes, you want to play well and stay injury free, those are all things I ask for and pray for. But I ask for humility. That has always been my biggest prayer. My conversations with God have always been in the midst of all the ups and downs, to just keep me level…God has answered those prayers. I have never had things to high where I lose myself, and God hasn’t allowed things to get so low that I can’t persevere through it.”
Whether you are a professional athlete or a fan, God wants to use you to impact your teammates, co-workers and friends for Christ. He has given each of us a unique set of skills and talents. While some are gifted in sports, others are at technology or speaking. We need to ask God how He wants us to use our gifts to glorify Him. As the Holy Spirit guides and directs us, we need to be obedient to do the things He is asking us, sometimes, it means that we need to reach out to our opponents, a co-worker that has offended us or a lonely classmate. We look forward to hearing how God uses you!
Pray for your enemies. Whether it is a co-worker that frustrates you, an athletic rival or someone that gossips about you, take time this week to pray for them. Ask God how He wants you to demonstrate His love to them. Pray for patience, forgiveness and that bitterness wouldn’t build.
Have a conversation with God in the midst of your daily activities. It might be during a game, a walk or during work. Prayer is simply talking to God. It doesn’t have to be out loud. It can be a conversation just like you would talk to a friend. This will give you God’s perspective on everything from using your career to glorify Him to which people He wants you to reach out to.
What is your focus? God wants to use your gifts and talents to glorify Him and bring others to Him. Take time this week and pray that God would show you what to focus on. By being focused and understanding your calling from God, will enable you to say “No” or prioritize your activities.