On January 3, my sons and I watched Damar Hamlin collapse on the football field. We sat glued to the TV as medical personnel rushed to his side. We stared in silence as players from both teams cried and prayed. We listened to the commentators ask for prayers. And then ESPN commentator Dan Orlovsky prayed on air:
God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard because we believe that you’re God and coming to you and praying to you has impact. We’re sad. We’re angry. We want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar. Be with his family to give him the peace.
It truly was—and still is—beautiful to see the outpouring of love and the countless requests for prayer. Millions of people around the country have offered prayers for this young man. Throughout Cincinnati, where the game was played, there is evidence of love and support for Hamlin—a graduate of a Pittsburgh-area Catholic high school. There is even a sign outside of Great American Ballpark, where the Reds play, that says “Prayers for Damar Hamlin.”
Thankfully, Hamlin has continued to improve and was stable enough to be moved to a hospital in Buffalo. Our prayers have been answered in the way we hoped.
But what we have seen through this tragedy is that the sports world—and likely people who have no interest in sports at all—can come together in prayer when someone needs it.
This outpouring of support has translated to another area as well. In 2020, Hamlin created a toy drive for underprivileged kids in his community. He wrote on the Go Fund Me page: “As I embark on my journey to the NFL, I will never forget where I come from and I am committed to using my platform to positively impact the community that raised me. I created The Chasing M’s Foundation as a vehicle that will allow me to deliver that impact, and the first program is the 2020 Community Toy Drive.”
The goal of the toy drive was to raise a modest $2,500. As of December, the page had raised slightly more than that. But after his collapse, donations skyrocketed. Today, it has over 8.8 million in donations. What an immense blessing!
Through the tragedy of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, we have seen that so much good can come out of his suffering. Indeed, Hamlin even tweeted that God was using him in a “different way” than as a football star. This is a lesson we can all take to heart.
If we are to help build a culture of life on earth, we must not be afraid to live our faith outwardly. We must not fear praying in public and asking God for help. And we must understand that prayer makes a difference in our lives—even if our prayers aren’t answered in the way we had hoped.
Prayer changes us. It unites as children of God. It shuts out the meaningless things in the world, it shuts out political divisions, and it shuts out the violence. It helps us reflect on what is truly important in life. And it gives us the opportunity to offer up our suffering for others or to unite our suffering with Christ’s on the cross.
Millions of people have been praying for Hamlin. It’s truly a beautiful way to come together as a body of Christ. Our prayers continue as he recovers.
But let us not forget the power of prayer, and let us continue to be changed by what we have seen these past 10 days. Let us not return to a world where prayer does not matter or where those who pray are ostracized or shunned. Let us not go back to a world where people feel they have to pray behind closed doors or just in church. Let us be open and proud when it comes to our faith. And let us use this tragedy to demonstrate the truth that prayer makes a difference. Even if our prayers hadn’t been answered in relation to Hamlin’s health, we would still know that the joining together of a nation in prayer, of cities posting signs, of the creation of loving memes, and of countless articles written has made a difference.
God uses tragedies for good—if we let Him. And as we have seen these past couple weeks, we have most certainly let Him. As we move forward, let us never forget the incredible power of prayer. It unites us, it changes us, and it builds a culture where people rely not on themselves but on the one who created us.