World Cup fever: Is it right to pray for England?

I'm a priest. One of the great privileges of my role is that people ask me to pray. I have never been asked to pray for one thing so much. A few people at a funeral, several more at a local community festival. A lot of people are asking me to pray for England. When I mentioned this in a Christian context people looked aghast.

So let me give you five reasons why I'm praying for England

ReutersEngland's John Stones celebrates scoring their fourth goal against Panama.

1. People have asked me to

It never ceases to cause me joy when someone asks me to pray. I know that everyone can pray but being a priest means that people can sometimes come to you with their deepest need. So when someone asks me to pray, I do.

It means I pray for pets and procedures, for travel and for travail. Football is not exempt from that. It's something people care about, so why wouldn't I care? Why wouldn't God care?

2. People have not told me what to pray

When people ask me to pray for England, they usually assume that I will pray for them to win. I do – but I'll get to that in a moment. But I also pray for other things too – peace, lack of violence, fair play, good role modelling.

3. We are not the first people to pray for victory

If you read the Psalms you have a lot of evidence of people who have prayed for God to give them victory. I sometimes think we are so British that we don't want to cause God the awkward dilemma of working out whose prayer to answer. I think God just likes it when we pray. I think God is big enough to work it out, if he indeed chooses to intervene.

4. When we win fewer people get hurt

In the UK, when a major football tournament starts, domestic violence levels go up. They go up whether we win or draw (by 26 per cent) but more when we lose (by 38 per cent). Who of us wouldn't pray for less harm for people? We should be praying that domestic violence ceases full stop. And I wonder if we are also invited to answer our own prayers – to get involved in creating safe spaces during the tournament, or family friendly watching zones. 5. 5. Of course I'm praying for England

Number four on my list saddens me. Our country – that I love – is a mess. That a woman dying in a nerve agent attack doesn't even make a front page today is scary. We have a government in disunity, we face a vast amount of uncertainty about the future of our economy. Children are facing a summer of scarcity, budgets are being cut, we are not sure if we can afford social care. Every board meeting I'm in is dealing with huge pension deficits. I'm praying. For justice, for peace, for revival – and maybe, just maybe, for a win.

Rev Jude Smith is the team rector of Moor Allerton and Shadwell in North Leeds. Follow her on Twitter @gingervicar 

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