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SIMMONS: Lions fan wants God in huddle

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 18, 2010

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

Thanksgiving Day. Time to begin a season-long celebration of what matters most in life - faith, family and food.

Oh, and football.

We have lots of reasons to tell God "thank you," whether it's for a job and good health, the love and support of family and friends, or your church and prayer circle. Lots of us also praise such simple things as opening our eyes and waking up every day as His work.

And there are those who pray for change, like Rocky Twyman and the 2008 Pray at the Pump movement, which used the power of prayer to seek lower gas prices and pray that Americans be blessed with the finances to fill our gas tanks. In April of that year, the national average price for a gallon of regular gas was $3.11. Today, it's $2.86.

There's no denying what happens when speaking truth to power, which a prominent Detroit minister and his flock are hoping to reveal on Thanksgiving Day.

The Rev. Horace Sheffield III of New Destiny Baptist Church is on a mission on behalf of the Detroit Lions. Yeah, the same Lions who got their second win this season by beating the Washington Redskins on Halloween and broke their 19-game skid in 2009 by beating the Redskins.

Mr. Sheffield and his congregation are hoping for a resurrection on Thanksgiving Day, when they link hands with other souls to form a prayer circle at Ford Field, the Lions' home.

"We've had [running back] Barry [Sanders]. We've had new management. We've had new coaches. We have a new field. Maybe it's time to get God to help," Mr. Sheffield, a season-ticket holder, told Detroit media.

It's not just the team they hope to inspire. Mr. Sheffield wants to help rally the entire Motor City, whose residents and businesses remain shell-shocked by the recession.

"When you're already down, you're already unemployed, there's already trouble and then to have to deal with a losing team and a losing season. Look at the difference with the game that they played last Sunday. You could tell they were deflated. So, we want to inflate the city by inflating the team," Mr. Sheffield said.

Sports fans are always praying for their teams. You've seen them, heads bowed moments before a 3-2 pitch or with prayerful hands when a guard is poised for a game-winning basket at the free-throw line.

Bowing heads to give thanks for a bountiful life is the origin of Thanksgiving, but turkey-day football is a tradition, too. American high school and college football games and the post-Depression era professional games have become cultural mainstays.

While most of our families don't have the financial wherewithal of, say, the Kennedys of Hyannis Port, Mass., to indulge costly intramural sporting, we sure can muster up the spirit. Besides, who do you think has the better sense of humor? Pop Kennedy or the Almighty, who guides the hands of NFL schedules?

And what a sense of humor will be playing itself out on this year's annual day of thanks. Are you ready?

The day starts with the 7-2 New England Patriots at the 2-7 Lions, continues with the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (6-3) at the 2-7 Dallas Cowboys, and closes with the 2-7 Cincinnati Bengals visiting the 7-2 New York Jets.

Nonbelievers don't get it. They poked fun of the Pray at the Pump movement and probably are throwing darts at Mr. Sheffield for proposing divine intervention. But that's what they do.

All the more reason for us to reinforce what we already know, and that is if you trust with all thine heart, prayer works wonders.

As we gather together and break bread next week, remember this: Praise Him just for the sake of it. After all, we have more to be thankful for than we will ever know.

Happy Thanksgiving.

- Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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