Looking for guidance on school prayer
I recall a conversation with a former California Teacher of the Year and Disney American Teacher Award winner who said, “Who says that there isn’t already prayer in school? Before class each morning I meet with other Christian teachers in our school to pray about our students, their needs and our ability to instruct them with wisdom, compassion and insight. Numerous times throughout the day I silently ask God for guidance, just as many students do when they take a test.”
I participated in a prayer walk with teachers and parents and in an annual gathering at the flag to pray for the school, faculty, teachers, parents and helpers who entered the grounds that year. The teacher said before school opened she would take the time to sit down at each student’s desk and pray for the child who will sit there in the coming year. During class sharing time she told of her family, pets, education and training, hobbies and favorite music, and her faith in God. She said her faith cannot be separated from her identity.
Those who would seek to mandate school prayer through a constitutional amendment deny the very rights our Founding Fathers guaranteed us in the First Amendment. America’s classrooms and yards cry out for clarification of these rights.
A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life claimed many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority knows public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature. “Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” Pew researchers wrote.
President Clinton’s statement (July 13, 1995), “The First Amendment does not require students to leave their religion at the schoolhouse door,” should still ring very true in our minds, including teachers and faculty. Preventing students and faculty from praying in school, or making them pray in public school will not bring about the changes our society so desperately needs. It will be accomplished by those who pray without fear, shyness, and with boldness anywhere and anytime.
Jesus said, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-34.
We cannot force or restrain prayer and faith any more than we can legislate or deny love. Perhaps, if we people of faith spent more time on our knees in prayer, and place more emphasis on living the life God asks us to lead, demonstrated through Jesus, the Son, our nation and our children would learn from living examples of faith, hope and love.
The old words from 2 Chronicles 7:14 still ring true and hold a wealth of promise, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
The Rev. Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.