THE astonishing recovery of the Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba, after he collapsed lifeless on the pitch, has provoked a new debate on faith and the power of prayer, the Dean of Bolton, the Revd Canon Rodger Petch, has said.
The Premier League player’s heart stopped beating for 78 minutes during Bolton’s FA Cup quarter-final, at Tottenham, on 17 March. But he was fit enough to walk out of hospital just a month later.
The incident, seen by millions of TV viewers, sparked a wave of public support and sympathy, led by the social media campaign “Pray4Muamba” (Comment, 30 March). This week Mr Muamba, a devout Christian, described his return to health as “more than a miracle”.
In an interview with The Sun, Mr Muamba, 24, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: “Someone up there was watching over me. On the morning of the game I prayed with my father and asked God to protect me — and he didn’t let me down. I am walking proof of the power of prayer.”
Canon Petch described how a “huge swell of support and prayer” swept across all the churches of the Lancashire town. “It has certainly awakened a faith awareness” he said.
“There were lots of prayer-messages, and maybe not all from people who go to church on a Sunday. They were there with the flowers outside the ground and on the big banners at the matches.
“Perhaps you might wonder whom people were praying to, but you have got to work with where people are at and what’s going on in their lives. “I believe in the power of prayer, but I believe God is still at work even in a case where a person is not healed. Yes, God was at work, but even if Fabrice had died, he would still have been at work.
“African Christians have put faith back on the agenda; they are much less embarrassed to talk about their faith, their trust in God. You see that in the African community across Bolton.”
The rapid spread of the prayer campaign was a sharp demonstration of the power of modern technology, the Vicar of St Peter’s, Bolton, the Revd Matt Thompson, said. “The ubiquity of the modern media — and the existence of the social media in particular — means that people were drawn into the story straight away,” he told The Guardian. “I was praying for Muamba a minute or two after the incident had taken place, which wouldn’t otherwise have been the case.”