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Since one Premier League footballer's cardiac arrest during a live TV Cup match, the debate about prayer has intensified ...

It's been one of the more extraordinary by-products of the traumatic collapse of Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba during the FA Cup tie with Spurs in March, that the subject of prayer has been buzzing through the nation's media.

The former England Under 21 captain has made considerable progress, although as I write this he is still in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital. Everyone, of course, hopes and prays he will sustain a full recovery.

But it's been the "pray4Muamba" hashtag flying around Twitter since the game was abandoned that has seen God, prayer and healing bandied around with varying degrees of understanding by the nation's press and media. As well as lots of teams revealing T-shirts during their pre-match warm-ups supporting the player.

"God is in control" said The Sun headline, quoting the player's fiancee who encouraged everyone to continue praying for him. Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 lined up a Christian and an atheist to debate the power and effectiveness of prayer.

The Comments boards on many national newspapers' websites have been a battle ground where neither sneering atheists nor glib Christians have done themselves any favours, but hopefully amid the usual name-calling there has been at least some thoughtful exploration of the issues.

In a crisis, pretty much everyone prays. It's instinctive.

Of course, others have pointed out that a highly paid professional footballer with the best medical care instantly available is always going to fare better than an ordinary man or woman suffering cardiac arrest. Yet, for once the sporting world has been reminded that life is much, much more important than football.

I'm praying not just for Muamba, but for a nation that needs to know God loves them and cares about the small details of life, not just the major crises.


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