Instead of taking a knee in protest, take two knees in prayer

I am absolutely amazed at the amount of attention we have devoted to NFL players “taking a knee” in protest during the playing of our national anthem. We’d be much better off if more Americans got down on both knees and turned to God in prayer.

As retired Army general, it is clear to me that we are a nation at risk. We have active, external threats from Russia, North Korea, Iran and ISIS. We have internal threats from domestic terrorists, a general lack of respect for law enforcement, and an epidemic of divisive people trying to pit Americans against one another.

With all of these problems affecting the nation we love, why are we giving so much attention to a few peaceful protesters on football fields?

I can only come to one conclusion: We have lost our focus as a nation. Turning to God can help us regain that focus.

I happen to be Christian. I spend time every morning reading the Bible. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God tells us: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways I will hear them from heaven and I will heal their land.”

Isn’t that what most of these protesters are after? Don’t they want to “heal the land?” The Bible tells us how we can go about that. So let’s do it. Let’s pray. Because frankly, we need all the help we can get.

Believe me, prayer is a whole lot more effective than dropping to one knee and making people upset for what just may be the wrong reasons. Because truly, all that this “taking a knee” business is doing now is taking everybody’s eyes off the ball.

The actor Denzel Washington, in videotaped remarks to young actors, recommended that we all put our shoes deep under our bed at night, so that in the morning we have to get down on our knees to retrieve them. And since we are down there anyway, “thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.”

I like Washington’s advice. For those who don’t pray regularly, it’s an easy way to start.

In all of the most difficult times in my life I have dropped to my knees and turned to my God in prayer. When commanding soldiers in combat, I found myself praying continuously. When my family or friends are facing difficult times, I drop to my knees and pray for them.

And guess what? It works. God answers all prayers, and he’s certainly answered mine. Sometimes his answer is “no!” Sometimes his answer is “not right now.”

I won’t say it’s always easy to understand the choices God makes. But my prayers have all been answered one way or another. The more of us God hears from, the more effective our collective prayers will be.

If you aren’t exactly sure how to pray, try this: First, thank God for all he has done for you as an individual.

If you are a professional athlete, thank God for all the God-given talents you are currently using to make a living playing sports. Thank God that you live in a country where you are free to worship as you like, and can enjoy all sorts of other profound freedoms on a daily basis. Then commit to God to use your talents and privileges to help those less fortunate.

And finally, ask God to heal and protect our country. Pray to God to step in and address whatever it is you might be otherwise complaining about on Facebook, or protesting on the football field.

Believe me, prayer is a whole lot more effective than dropping to one knee and making people upset for what just may be the wrong reasons. Because truly, all that this “taking a knee” business is doing now is taking everybody’s eyes off the ball.

After all, no football team ever won a game without focus. And as a nation, we aren’t going to win the battles we are fighting for unless we regain some focus.

The last thing I have to say about this is the next time you hear our national anthem, remember our obligation as American citizens to respect our laws.

The U.S. Code (the official compilation of federal statutes) states in Title 36: “During a rendition of the national anthem individuals in uniform should give the military salute … all other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart.”

Focus, people. Focus on what matters. And if you need help figuring out how to do that, I suggest you take both knees and ask for help.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Rick Lynch is the author of the book "Work Hard, Pray Hard: The Power of Faith in Action" (Savio Republic, April 4, 2017).  He and his wife, Sarah, live in Texas.