Before each game, the chaplain for the New York Knicks leads a Bible study for players of both teams. Head coach Jeff Van Gundy recently criticized the practice, saying, "It's wrong for competition. Everybody is hugging before games, praying together."

What do you think? The issue stirred up a conversation among Beliefnet members. Here are some of the highlights from the debate so far. Read through the posts below, take our poll, and
talk about it.

from Beliefnet members...

I think praying before sporting events is taking the Lord's Name In Vain!!! We live in a sports-sick society that worships athletes... I will not pray before a sporting event. I think it is blasphemy!

Poll:  Does prayer affect an athlete's competitive edge?
Not at all.
Athletes play harder with "God on their side."
What's wrong with replacing the "edge" with brotherhood?
Warm and fuzzy doesn't win games.
vote      View Results
I like it that athletes hold some spiritual convictions--enough to pray together before or after games... It's reassuring to know that some of them are committed to something larger than themselves or their sport!

There are fundamental beliefs in various religions which are diametrically opposite to beliefs in other religions. When you have a basketball team containing multiple religions, how can all of these contradicting beliefs be expressed in a single prayer?

Prayer should be used by all teams. Sports of all kinds would benifit not only on the playing field or court but in the enriched lives of the lives off the field or court.

Too often these prayers become "theater"--a quasi-Christian ritual with no real connection to the faith life of those participating. When there is pressure for people of many differing faiths (or none) to participate, how can it be anything but a sham? Prayer is the most sacred and powerful thing we do as believers. I cringe when it's reduced to meaningless ritual or hypocracy.

Are people really that worried about other people praying? Frankly, I worry about the way some people think--or don't.

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