The Olympics in Rio kicked off this past weekend with much fanfare, as Brazil set aside the controversies leading up to the games to set the stage for the athletes. The events themselves have been amazing to watch, including multiple world records set in the pool.
It’s also a great time to be in prayer (though there’s not really a bad time to be in prayer). The eyes of the world are focussed on Rio and we can and should take this opportunity to pray. Here are three ways you can pray for the Olympics right now:
1 | Pray for the athletes
The athletes are the first people that come to mind when we think about the Olympics, so let’s begin our prayers there. You can join the Struggles & Triumph prayer team, where you can receive the names of five Olympians from around the world so you can pray for them during and after the Olympics in Rio.
Pray for the health and safety of the athletes. Health is a concern in every Olympics, as athletes push their bodies to their absolute limits in hopes of winning a medal, but particularly in these Olympics, with the health concerns specific to Rio, such as the Zika virus and water pollution.
Beyond physical health, you can also pray for the spiritual well-being of the athletes. Pray for peace for the athletes as they deal with the heightened stress of performing at the Olympics. When American swimmers Missy Franklin and Kelsi Worrell were asked about their prayer requests heading into Olympic trials, both spoke about the need for peace.
For many athletes, their entire identity is tied up in their sport. Pray that the athletes competing in the events don’t find their identity in success or failure, but in their relationship with God.
Athletes who fall short of their goals may be emotionally and spiritually devastated and in need of God’s comfort. Keep in mind those athletes that worked for years but fell short of qualifying for the Olympics as well.
You can also be in prayer for those athletes that succeed and win medals: the temptation when met with success is to let justified pride in accomplishments become pride in self, leading to arrogance. Pray that athletes are humble in victory and that, within their joy, they can recognize the ultimate joy-giver.
2 | Pray for Athletes in Action
Several people from Power to Change Ministries, particularly from Athletes in Action Canada, are in Rio. Some will be providing pastoral care to Canadian and American athletes and coaches across upwards of ten sports that they have a relationship with, including Rudy Verhoeff (volleyball), Khamica Bingham (athletics), and Helen Maroulis (wrestling). Be in prayer as they encourage and support these athletes.
Athletes in Action will also be holding a conference to help train over 100 AIA missionaries from 35 countries, with a focus on spiritual multiplication. Pray that this conference leads to significant fruit for years to come as missionaries return to their home countries with new strategies and tools for sharing their faith through sport.
In addition, AIA will be reaching out to non-Christian Olympians, coaches, and families by building relationships and initiating spiritual conversations. They will be using AIA’s new Struggle & Triumph series of resources, including Bibles that they will be distributing to interested athletes and coaches.
They have also produced a documentary highlighting the stories of four Olympians and how they have faced both struggles and triumph in their lives: Lauryn Williams, Daniel Dias, Li Yan, and Wilson Kipsang.
Pray that the Holy Spirit opens hearts and provides opportunities for Christian athletes and Athletes in Action staff to share their stories and help people to know Jesus and experience his power to change the world.
3 | Pray for Brazil and her people
Behind all the amazing athletic achievements and inspirational stories of the Olympics, Brazil continues to face political and economic turmoil. The list of issues facing the host nation are daunting: a massive recession, with millions living in poverty; high rates of violent crime, with a heavy-handed response from police; political corruption and scandals, leading to President Dilma Rousseff suspended and facing impeachment.
Hopes that hosting the Olympics will help this situation may be overly optimistic, at least from an economic standpoint, as the billions of dollars spent hosting the games rarely pays off for the host nation. You could pray, however, that a boost in nationalistic fervor helps catalyse the people of Brazil and rally the country to turn things around.
The majority of Brazil identifies as Christian, with the largest percentage being Roman Catholics, and there is a growing movement of evangelical Christians, but there is still a need for the gospel to move in Brazil.
Pray that the people of Brazil, if they already know Jesus, come to know him even better. For those that do not know Jesus, pray that the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts. Pray that the people of Brazil would respond to the issues affecting their nation with love, kindness, and mercy.
Pray that truth will uproot corruption; that peace will overwhelm violence; that love will unseat hate.
Can you think of other ways to be in prayer for the Olympics in Rio? Let us know in the comments!
Visit the Struggle & Triumph homepage to watch and read the stories of the four Olympians in the documentary and share their stories with your friends on social media during the Olympics!