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Lord God, thank You for showing Yourself through a sports competition that all of America focused on. Bless these young men and their coaches!
249 People Prayed

Redemption was a key theme at the conclusion of the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, with Virginia bouncing back from last year’s shocking defeat to claim its first title. But for many players and coaches who were in the national spotlight during the Final Four, off-the-court redemption matters much more.

Both the Virginia Cavaliers and the team they defeated in overtime, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, made headlines for being vocal about their Christian faith.

After defeating Michigan State in a Final Four semi-final Saturday, the Red Raiders knelt for prayer in their locker room. Although CBS cut away from the scene, the team’s statement was clear. “I know nationally [prayer is] not accepted and not the norm,” says chaplain Corbin Young. But “it was no shock to me, knowing the identity of this team. That’s the heartbeat of who they are. Faith plays a huge part in the core values of this team.”

It’s been “a beautiful thing” to see Texas Tech come together and grow spiritually this year, Young says. Some players set up a weekly Bible study; others told reporters about reading Scripture daily and quoted verses during interviews.

Young, who texts team members daily, offered encouragement after Monday’s loss. “It’s so amazing that God’s love is not based on our performance,” says the chaplain. “His love doesn’t change, win or lose the national championship.” Young also reminded the young men that the sport isn’t their identity. “Basketball is just what they do, it’s not who they are,” he says. . . .

Texas Tech player Matt Mooney received kudos for being gracious after Monday’s disappointing loss. In an emotional post-game interview, he said, “Throughout sports, my faith has been tested a lot. There’s more to life than the game of basketball. There’s an eternity. At some point, the ball will stop bouncing.” Mooney, who says the Holy Spirit told him to transfer to Texas Tech, put Joshua 1:9 on his sneakers for inspiration during the tournament. “I know that God never leaves my side,” he says.

Tony Bennett, who’s led the University of Virginia Cavaliers to five NCAA tournaments in his nine years at the helm, calls Jesus “the greatest truth I know.” . . . After Monday’s victory, Bennett’s first words were, “Thank you. I’m humbled, Lord.” Amid the celebrations, he urged his players to remain humble too. “Don’t let this change you,” he told them. . . .

Last March, after Virginia became the first number-one seed to lose to a number 16 seed, Bennett quoted Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” This year, after earning the school’s first championship, he played the song “Hills and Valleys” by Christian artist Tauren Wells. The shocking 2018 loss “will always be part of our story,” Bennett says, “but this is a new year.”

The coach, who prays regularly for his players, says, “It’s my hope that they’ll be able to find the truth in their lives that has really transformed my life.” But he also tries to respect their individual journeys. . . .

The Auburn Tigers made it to the Final Four for the first time this year, losing to Bennett’s Virginia team by one point Saturday. But team members praised God amid the defeat. “My sole purpose on the earth is to glorify God,” says forward Thomas Collier. Being a Christian means you “want to work as hard as you possibly can for the Lord,” he says, but “that doesn’t mean God will bless you with a win.” What’s important to remember, Collier adds, is that “God will have a perfect plan for you.”

Michigan State, which lost to Texas Tech Saturday, also has vocal Christians on its roster. Sophomore guard Joshua Langford relied on his faith to deal with an injury this year while supporting his teammates. “It’s allowed me to have a good foundation,” he says of his faith. “I’ve just been trying to figure out what else God has placed inside of me.” Langford, who credits God with healing him from a life-threatening illness at age 12, told USA Today as a high school senior, “We are here for something more important than basketball, and that’s Christ.”

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  1. Praise the LORD that You are getting the glory from these young men of God. Thank you LORD for their victories and for their humility during winning and defeat.

    I pray for courage, wisdom, peace and determination to stand for the LORD Jesus Christ no matter where they are or the circumstances they may face.

    Bless them LORD and their coaches as well.

    In the Name of Jesus I pray Amen

  2. We praise the Lord for the courage, humility and integrity of these young men and their coaches and staff to be faithful before God to honor Him in all circumstances of life. As these men have lifted up the Lord in testimony and witness let us also pray that God will continue to use them to start a mighty revival among these basketball programs and universities. Let us pray fervently, boldly, expectantly for a sustained, anointed, powerful student led revival and renewal of truth and redemption. . . a great turning to God in unprecedented numbers and strength. May there be a wave that sweeps across these campuses and spills into the surrounding community and churches. Let us join together and pray over these four campuses for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them that they can not contain even if they tried! May the divine power of God bind and demolish the strongholds of deceit, unbelief, apathy, complacency, shame, guilt. . .anything that the enemy is using as a stronghold over their hearts, minds and faith. May Jesus truly be lifted up and glorified for when He is He will draw all those that are so lost in the darkness of this world unto Himself. He is the light of the world and the darkness cannot extinguish it! Amen and Amen

  3. Thank You, Lord, for all those who joined in prayer for our colleges on the special day set aside for this prayer effort. Thank You for allowing us to see in part the fruit of our prayers as we read about the bold testimony of these basketball players. May their faith spill out over their campuses into the hearts of many students. Hallelujah! We pray that You will continue to increase the harvest of our prayer effort for colleges across America.

  4. God be blessed for what His children do to glorify Him, even on the basketball courts.
    May those who acknowledge their relationship with God, continue to be influential Kingdom people even off the courts.

  5. Gracious expressions from players such as “humility and servanthood”: “We are the same”: wanting to be beacon of hope to others – be able to help someone who is suffering … when you are in a dark place you can absolutely come out on top … motivation is short-term, inspiration is long-term – that loss made me closer with my fiancée, my family, God, and it helped me open up to everyone … these are gracious thoughts lovingly expressed with faithfulness and self-discipline! Only God in Christ can truly inspire that unconditionally sacrificial love joyfully expressed by Virginia guard Kyle Guy who speaks for inspired young and old alike to grow, to glow, and to glorify our Great God in sports and in daily living! Amazing and that is Who God has always been … truly was, is, and eternally for all of us!

  6. Encouraging to hear these young Athletes being bold about their faith , setting GODLY examples for younger people.
    May the LORD richly bless them and prosper them in knowing HIM

  7. The college students who spoke publicly about God’s Word and it gave them a sense of boldness they had not experienced before and observing each other speak strengthened their courage that they could live out their faith with less anxiety knowing there was a greater community around them experiencing the same challenges.

  8. I love hearing about the boldness to speak openly about these young athletes faith. May each of them grow into the fullness of Christ w continued determination to Glorify The Lord Jesus everyday of their lives.

  9. So wonderful to read these comments from team members, Chaplains, and coaches. May God be be glorified and many lives be touched, especially up and coming young athletes!

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