Summer 2024

THE INCREASE: Sam Acho - An Unexpected Answer

I think a lot of times when people pray, they don’t truly believe God cares about what they’re praying about. I used to be one of those people.

When I was looking for the right woman to marry, I had hopes and goals for who that woman should be. I wanted someone who loved God more than she loved me, or anything else for that matter. I wanted a woman who was beautiful and who would understand and share the passion I have for the cultural depth of the Nigerian people. I wanted someone who loves kids. The list goes on and on, and yet, God answered every one of those prayers in my wife. And four years into marriage, God continues to answer that prayer every day as I do life together with my wife.

I also see the power of prayer clearly through parenting. With a 3-year-old and a 1 ½-year-old, I can’t even imagine what life was like before they were born. Yes, parenting is hard, but the joy that I gain from being around them, loving them and caring for them, is unparalleled. I make mistakes often, but I learn from them and parenting only gets better as I learn and grow. My son’s name displays the power of answered prayer throughout my wife’s and my life. We named each of our kids with American first names and Nigerian middle names. My son’s name is Caleb Chinaezekpere; the middle name means, “God answers prayers.” Every day I’m reminded of this truth when I look into my son’s eyes.

We have to remember that God is the same today, yesterday and forever. The same God who told Noah to have faith to build an arc in order to save his family, the same God who called and delivered Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the same God who answers our prayers. In fact, He’s the only one answering prayers. It may be easy to have doubt in a God who seems at times to be silent — one whom we cannot see — but every time I’m tempted to lose faith, I turn to the Word of God, or look back on my own life to remember all the miracles He’s done.

The same God can do it again.

For all of us, there are times when it feels like God is silent while we pray. There was a time when I was praying fervently for success on the field. I would say, “God, I know I’m capable of being a great NFL player!” By the grace of God, I had a pretty good rookie year with seven sacks. They said I was “wrecking the game.” Even in my second year I was doing this both in practices and games until I was out for the rest of the season and the following one with an injury. Then in Year 4, 5 and 6, I was doing nothing. I was playing, but I wasn’t playing to the level of ability I wanted. I thought, “What the heck! I know I’m better than this.” I began to lose confidence in myself; I didn’t know if I still “had it.”

But in some really cool ways, in which only God can, He began to show me, “Hey son, I’m coming.” My first year in Chicago, I did pretty well but then reluctantly took a base salary for the next. Then, right when it was prime time of the season, the team acquired a new linebacker and my playing time disappeared. In the crux of the season, I was suddenly getting only three to four snaps a game.

It was not what I had planned.

Then one guy went down, then two, then three, and in the last game of the season I get a chance to play. No I didn’t get any sacks, but I had about five or six quarterback hits and pressures, and ended up having the best game of my season. Oddly enough, it was the one game no one goes back to watch the film on, but for me that was God reminding me, “Son, do not to worry. I got you.” No one else may have known or cared about that game, but for me that was everything. I knew I could do it!

I came back last year and had one of the best seasons of my career. All the things I wasn’t able to do years three through six, I began to be able to do more and more. I was getting better every single day.

So it wasn’t that God didn’t answer my prayer for success. But He answered it to say, “Not yet.” For me, Year 4, 5 and 6 weren’t it. God needed to grow me a lot, and strip me of my jealousy and many of the sins I was harboring in my heart before He gave me success. I believe that’s what those three years were for. Now I’m at a point where I believe success will come, not by my own strength, but only because God’s saying, “I got you.”

— Sam Acho, Chicago Bears linebacker

The Increase, part of the Sports Spectrum Network, is a community of Christian pro athletes sharing their personal stories of the decrease of self and the increase of Christ (John 3:30). Visit for more stories and videos.