Many people consider video games to be a waste of time, but for a select few it can be highly lucrative. After being on hiatus due to Covid-19, the Evo Championship Series video game tournament resumed last year. This is a long running, high level competition in a variety of fighting games. In these games, two opponents pick a fighter and then they use a memorized series of button sequences to perform special moves and combos in a hope to defeat the other player. This tournament is a big deal, as at the 2022 tournament almost $200,000 in prize money was awarded.
To watch competitive players at fighting games play is absolutely amazing. It requires memorizing complicated strings of button combos and being able to execute that combo flawlessly every time. Being truly skilled at these games though requires more than remembering what buttons to press. It requires split second timing. It requires the ability to read the situation, and know exactly which button combo to press to counteract the opponent, while they are doing the same thing. Skill at these games goes well beyond memorization and it goes beyond a lot of practice. The best players at fighting games know the character they “main” perfectly. They have not just mastered the controls, they have learned the character so well, and they have internalized how to play the game to such a degree that doing so just seems to flow out of them. Playing at this level requires more than just knowing the character, it requires becoming the character. I think there is a lesson here for our faith as well. Faith is not about doing a right set of actions, and it is not about knowing the right answers. Faith is about internalization- it is about the heart. It is about taking the gospel of God’s love and forgiveness and believing that from the very core of our being. Faith requires more than just knowing the gospel, it requires becoming the gospel.
When a gamer internalizes the move set in a fighting video game, they can compete at the highest level. When a Christian internalizes their faith, they can then pray at the highest level. In the letter named after him, James wrote in 5:16: the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective. The prayers of the righteous are effective, because they are prayed by the righteous. Righteousness is the word the bible uses time and time again to describe people who take following God seriously. It is the word used to describe people who internalize their faith. The righteous do not treat faith like a hobby. It is a fundamental expression of who they are. Experts at fighting games can know exactly what button sequence to press at the exact right time because playing their character has become like second nature to them. In the same way, the righteous know just what to pray because they have internalized loving God and following Jesus.
Prayer is not magic. It is not like we can say the exact right words and instantly create the effect we want. I would argue prayer is something more beautiful and powerful. Prayer is the primary way that we join God in transforming this world. When we pray, we are not just doing a good luck ritual, we are interacting with the Creator of all that exists. When we ask for something in prayer, we are asking the single most powerful and creative being in the entire universe to intervene and possibly change the very fabric of reality to make a miracle happen. In order for that to work we need to have an idea of how to pray.
Skill at fighting video games comes from experience, but it also requires commitment and a love for the game. In the same way, learning to pray righteously takes a lot of experience in prayer and a love for God. It requires a faith that we are serious about, that we internalize, and that we feel with every fiber of our being. May that be the kind of faith that you possess. May your faith not just be a hobby that you engage in on Sunday mornings, but may it be a deep, internal part of who you are. May you live your faith out consistently and daily in your thoughts, your words, and your actions. May you be so in step with the Holy Spirit, so that you know exactly what to pray about. Through the power of your prayers, may miracles happen, and may the world be transformed, because the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.