Peyton Manning explains why he's not showy about his Christian faith on the football field

Peyton Manning says he prays for the safety of his team on the field, not really for victory.Reuters

When it comes to his priorities, NFL quarterback Peyton Manning lists these four things in order: Faith, family, education, then football.

"For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends and football. And I tell all of them that as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was 13 years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: 'If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you'd go to heaven?'" he writes in his book "Manning" (shared by Minding the Truth blog).

Manning says other athletes are more expressive of their faith, to the point that they would point to heaven every time they score a touchdown or praise God after games. But even though he does not do those things, Manning says that does not make him less of a Christian.

"I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don't want to be more of a target for criticism than I already am," he explains.

It is difficult to be a Christian, he says, because he gets scrutinised heavily every time he makes a mistake. When he is seen drinking beer, people would already think: "Hmmmm, Peyton says he's this, that, or the other, and there he is drinking alcohol. What's that all about?"

But the athlete wants to clarify: "Christians drink beer. So do non-Christians. Christians also make mistakes, just as non-Christians do. My faith doesn't make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago."

Manning says he is blessed because he is "given so much" in his life, and that is why he prays every night "about a lot of things and a lot of people."

Talking about God and football, Manning says that God does not really root for any specific football team, and this is why he does not pray for victory.

"I pray to keep both teams injury free, and personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability," he says.

"I don't think God really cares about who wins football games, except as winning might influence the character of some person or group. Besides, if the Colts were playing the Cowboys and I prayed for the Colts and Troy Aikman prayed for the Cowboys, wouldn't that make it a standoff?"