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"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

God be merciful

God be merciful to me a sinner. Luke 18:13

Jesus’ familiar story about the two men praying in the temple (Luke 18:10-14) has much to teach us. The context is given in verse 9: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable”.

Self-righteousness is dangerous because it leads us to pride ourselves in our achievements and good character. In sport – and in life – we need self-confidence, we need to believe that we are capable of winning or accomplishing the task before us. The balance between necessary self-confidence and arrogant self-righteousness can be a challenge at times, particularly in the world of sport where we are judged by our performance.

The self-righteous man in the story started by saying: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people”. Coming to God full of ourselves never cuts any ice. In the next part of this chapter Jesus talks about children, perhaps encouraging us to come to God in a way similar to a child asking a parent for help.

And remember the God to whom we come is a God of lavish grace.

Ideas taken from Daniel MacGinnis, Encounter with God, 7 November 2019

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