Bishop of Leeds prays for England's football team: 'Oh God...'
As football fans across the UK prepare for England's opening match against Italy tomorrow night, Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, has published a series of prayers calling for divine intervention.
Written four years ago during England's disastrous performance in South Africa, Bishop Nick has posted the prayers on his blog ahead of a (hopefully) more impressive few weeks in Rio. His words don't inspire too much confidence, though, with one prayer reading simply: "Oh God..."
Another asks for "patience" and "understanding" for those uninterested in the tournament - not to mention "sympathy if needed" - while one tongue-in-cheek prayer, written in the style of 13th Century priest Richard of Chichester, asks for the Lord's hand on the English boys, "that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly".
Bishop Nick explains: "For the next few weeks at least the passions and hearts of millions of men, women and children around the world will be focused on Brazil, where I'm pretty sure there will be lots of prayers being offered up throughout the tournament.
"God is not partisan and there are bigger things to pray for around the world, not least in Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan to name but three," he adds, but notes that, "At its heart prayer is about expressing our desires honestly and having our vision of God, the world and one another changed by our praying."
He concludes: "I know some have suggested it might take too much of a miracle for England to win the World Cup; we constantly over-rate, over-hype and over-anticipate England performance and then indulge in a collective intemperate bloodletting against team and manager when they fail to deliver on the big stage.
"My hope is that the World Cup would be a reminder of the joy of a nation coming together in a common cause - something that in itself is worth celebrating."
The prayers in full:
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A Prayer for the World Cup
Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup.
May all find in this competition a source of celebration, an experience of common humanity and a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others.
A Prayer for Brazil
God of the nations, who has always called his people to be a blessing for the world, bless all who take part in the World Cup.
Smile on Brazil in her hosting,
on the nations represented in competition and on those who travel to join in the party.
A prayer for those simply not interested
Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever, bless us with understanding, strengthen us with patience and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.
Prayers for the England Football team
"God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen."