John Cassis is one of our nation’s finest motivational speakers. He told a story recently about a time when he was serving as one of the chaplin’s for the Chicago Bears during their glory years of the 80’s.
As John tells it, Mike Ditka was about to deliver a locker room pep talk one day. He looked up and saw defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry. How could he not see him? At 338 pounds the Fridge stood out even in a crowd of pro football players. Ditka gestured to the Fridge. “When I get finished,” he said, “I’d like you to close with the Lord’s Prayer.” Then the coach began his talk.
Meanwhile, Jim McMahon, the brash and outspoken quarterback, punched John Cassis. “Look at Perry,” McMahon whispered, “he doesn’t know the Lord’s Prayer.”
Sure enough, Perry sat with a look of panic on his face, his head in his hands. He was sweating profusely. “Everybody knows the Lord’s Prayer,” said Cassis to McMahon in disbelief. After a few minutes of watching the Refrigerator leaking several gallons of sweat, McMahon nudged Cassis again. “I’ll bet you 50 bucks Fridge doesn’t know the Lord’s Prayer.”
As Cassis tells the story, he stops to reflect on the absurdity of it all: “Here we were sitting in chapel and betting 50 bucks on the Lord’s Prayer.”
When Coach Ditka finished his pep talk, he asked all the men to remove their caps. Then he nodded at Perry and bowed his head. It was quiet for a few moments before the Fridge spoke in a shaky voice, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul to keep…”
Cassis felt the tap on his shoulder. It was Jim McMahon. “Here’s the 50 dollars,” he whispered. “I had no idea Perry knew the Lord’s Prayer.”
When I grew up it seemed like everyone knew the Lord’s prayer. Everyone knew the stories of the Biblical heroes like Noah, Abraham and Daniel. It was not uncommon for people of all ages to be able to quote to you all the 10 Commandments or all the books of the Bible. Wow, how things have changed! Now our generation suffers from a kind of faith illiteracy. I honestly believe that there are men, women and children in our “one nation under God,” who have never uttered a prayer in their lives. They are much like the little girl I encountered at our elementary school on career day. I had just finished telling the story of David and Goliath, when she smiled a big grin and said, “That’s not really a true story is it? I’ve never heard that in my life.”
I believe that there is still a need for Bible stories. I believe there is still a need for the Lord’s prayer. And I believe that there is still a need for something as simple as a children’s prayer like, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” All of these things are important because they draw attention to God. We must once again become a people who know God, His book and His will for our lives.
Oh, and just in case you don’t know the Lord’s prayer, you can find it Matthew 6:9-13.