Some Christians treat God like an all-star National Football League quarterback such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees. They have failed at some aspect of the game of life and ask God to throw them a Hail Mary pass that will allow them to win at life even though they have not played that well.
At times they have been sitting on the sidelines collecting the NFL player minimum salary which is now over $400,000 per year, but not practicing hard or performing well in the games. Yet at the end of the season when it looks like their team is going to lose again they beg the coach to put them in because they can catch that Hail Mary pass if the quarterback will only throw it.
In case you do not know what a Hail Mary pass is in football here is one perspective. A Hail Mary pass is a desperation pass thrown at a crucial time in a football game as the last chance for the team currently losing to score a touchdown and win the game. Usually it involves throwing a long pass that must be caught in the end zone because either it is a fourth down near the end of the game, or time is running out and this may be the last play of the game.
While tradition says the term for this play originated in the 1930s at the University of Notre Dame, the most famous Hail Mary pass is thought to be the one thrown by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach to wide receiver Drew Pearson in 1975 in a playoff game with the Minnesota Vikings. The legend says that when Staubach threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Pearson he closed his eyes and said a Hail Mary.
Hail Mary Spirituality
Too often Christians treat their spirituality like a Hail Mary. They have no regular consistent practice of spiritual formation. Yet, when they get into a crisis they beg God to throw them a Hail Mary pass to get them out of a tough situation. Until the crisis they were sitting on the sidelines observing the spiritual formation of others and thinking that one day they will get around to that.
The good news is that God often throws us a Hail Mary pass when we encounter the crises of life. It would be so much better if we all had a consistent spiritual life and did not ask God to step in only during times of crisis.
Hail Mary Sermon Preparation
When I was in seminary and trying to pursue advanced degrees while serving as pastor of an inner city church, I would often ask God to throw me a Hail Mary pass on Saturday night so that the sermon I needed to preach would come together.
I am the very one who should have known better and not waited until Saturday to prepare my sermon. My wife wondered what would happen if I got sick on Saturday night, or spent the evening in the hospital with someone who was dying. How would I point the congregation to Jesus? The good news is that on those Sunday mornings God did throw me a Hail Mary pass that enabled me to connect with the spiritual needs of my congregation in ways that went far beyond my human abilities.
Hail Mary Retirement Planning
My son works for a retirement investment organization for people in church and denominational ministry. He often encounters two types of people who ask God to throw them a Hail Mary pass so they will have funds for retirement. First, are young ministers who refuse to invest in a retirement program because they think they do not have the money. They do not understand the simple miracle of compound interest. They say that God will take care of them in retirement.
Second, are ministers 55 or more years old who have a grossly underfunded retirement program. They are scared. They are running out of years. They are asking God to keep them healthy so they can keep working, or to reveal a benefactor who will fund their retirement. Amazingly my son sees God bring along benefactors on many occasions when these minsters cry out for a Hail Mary pass.
Why do we tempt God so? Why should God reward our bad or irresponsible behavior? Ponder these things. If it does not work for you, then I suggest you say 150 Hail Marys and call me in the morning.