There was probably more praying going on in downtown Atlanta the first weekend in December than when Sherman showed up with a pocketful of matches. The University of Georgia and The University of Alabama were playing in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the SEC championship and fans were silently and even openly begging God for a victory.
Just a few blocks away in the State Farm Arena, 20,000 middle aged fans traveled to see the Farewell tour of Elton John. The pop legend had cancelled two previous shows the week before due to an ear infection and fans prayed for him to be able to go on with the show.
With a heavy dose of church-going in our Southern communities, we were taught to cast our cares and worries at the feet of the Lord, but does he really want to hear about our first-world entertainment woes? Does God care if our Saturday night plans are ruined by a fumble, interception or a rock star running a fever?
My husband and I were able to find last minute tickets to Elton John’s show, thanks to a friend’s knee replacement surgery (I mentioned the middle-aged thing, right?)
I thought about praying for Elton to feel better, but then felt a twinge of guilt. There were still people homeless in our country from hurricanes and fires. Children were being crippled by an unknown disease and others were hungry. Did God really care about a concert?
The football stadium erupted when Alabama squeaked out a victory, then Elton John took to the stage and played the piano like a possessed musical genius while occasionally pinching his nose to relieve pressure in his swollen ears.
Looking around the arena, I realized praying for a football team or rock star really meant much more than just a small request for fun.
Parking attendants, security personnel and hourly-paid food service employees may have needed that night of work to help pay bills. The vendors at the football game may have had one of their most lucrative days ever and the extra cash would help purchase Christmas gifts for their children. It may be a silly game or frivolous concert on the surface, but to others, it could have unknowingly been the last fun evening they spent with their family. Maybe – just maybe, there were couples who fell in love when he held her hand during “Your Song.”
A trivial plea for the show to go on could ultimately spiral into a cure for HIV through the Elton John AIDS Foundation which has already contributed millions of dollars to relieve suffering around the world.
Loving our neighbors as ourselves is the way we were raised down here. God rejoices when we care for one another.
So perhaps, Southerners who have grown up going to Vacation Bible School and hearing stories from dedicated Sunday School teachers shouldn’t feel bad when they pray for seemingly small things, because God has his eye on the tiny sparrow, majorettes, coaches, bass guitarists, sound technicians and hotdog vendors. He sees the big picture. He can handle it all, and our small prayer could be of great importance to someone else. We’re connected and have the honor of supporting each other through the power of prayer.
And then came the words that in the heart of a believer could be turned into a rock/doxology of praise . . . “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”
This story first appeared on AL.com and will be in the Sunday edition of The Mobile Press Register, The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times.