After a depressing week in politics, at last some good news to put everything else into perspective:

Cantona

So, the 2014 World Cup has kicked off. The Church of England published my five prayers yesterday and the response has been mixed. Anyone with half a sense of humour is OK with them.

I actually wrote them four years ago for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Only two were written before the tournament began, and the shortest one was written part-way through the competition when England were sliding out. Context is everything.

But, why write new ones when the last lot still have life (despite miserable pedants). After all, prayer is about expressing our real feelings and desires to God, not about having to justify them ethically first.

Here they are:

Prayer 1 : A Prayer for the World Cup

Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup. May all find in this competition a source of celebration, an experience of common humanity and a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others. Amen.

Prayer 2 : A Prayer for Brazil

God of the nations, who has always called his people to be a blessing for the world, bless all who take part in the World Cup. Smile on Brazil in her hosting, on the nations represented in competition and on those who travel to join in the party. Amen.

Prayer 3 : A prayer for those simply not interested

Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever, bless us with understanding, strengthen us with patience and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed. Amen.

Prayer 4 : Prayers for the England Football team

Oh God…

Prayer 5

God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen.

Just seen proof that Lampard’s goal didn’t go in after all. That makes me feel better. (The link came from a German newspaper…)

England, oh my England, where did you go today?

You were meant to be in Africa, you had a game to play.

The defence stayed home, the team looked lost, the Germans ran amok,

The vuvuzelas gave the sound that best described our shock:

Blaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……

I have spent the last few weeks explaining to around twenty radio stations from around the world why I didn’t write a prayer for England to win the World Cup. God is not partisan, I explained, and there are bigger things to pray for – especially as prayer is about (a) expressing our desires honestly (even if they are dodgy), and (b) having our own vision of God, the world and us changed by our praying.

Anyway, I suggested, it might take too much of a miracle for England to win the World Cup: we constantly over-rate, over-hype and over-anticipate England performances… and then indulge in a collective intemperate bloodletting against team and manager when they (consistently) fail to deliver on the big stage. At least we are fairly consistent in behaving like this in every competition. (On BBC’s Newsnight programme Gavin Esler said they had intended to show highlights of the game, but there weren’t any…)

But, after watching England’s remarkably aimless and seemingly dispassionate performance against Algeria last night, I now feel moved to pen two new prayers specifically for the England team. (I will be praying from a distance as I will be in Canada for the G8 Faith Leaders Summit – I am NOT leaving the country because I can’t bear to watch the Slovenia match next week…)

The first is simple and honest:

Oh God…

The second offers a little more:

God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen.

Well, don’t say I didn’t try.