Praying For Our Schools
by Pastor Greg Hoffmann
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:4-9
On June 25, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional in the landmark case Engel v. Vitale. In the decades since it seems that a complacency has developed, almost as if we have interpreted “no school-sponsored prayers” as meaning schools don’t need our prayers. I realize that there are many parents and grandparents who pray for their loved ones who are in school but what about praying beyond the students?
Those who are involved in education know the intricate workings of the public (and private) school systems along with the struggles presented during this pandemic. But those of us who are looking from the outside may be less aware. Our next-door neighbor is the principal of one of the area’s private Christian high schools. In conversations with him, I have learned much about the workings of schools in general. Obviously, our next-door neighbor, being the principal of a Christian high school, is very open to prayer. But we might be pleasantly surprised at the response if we would enter into conversation with public school officials as well.
As Jane referenced in her devotion last week, churches were recently urged to meet in front of schools and school administrative buildings to pray for those involved with education. The outreach was coordinated by WePraySanDiego, which is seeking to mobilize Christians to pray once each quarter for various aspects of our communities. On this particular Saturday in September, a number of PLC people stood on the sidewalk in front of a local elementary school and prayed over it.
In preparation for this hour of prayer I had emailed that school’s counselor, whom I know, and being uncertain of her response, asked if there were any specific prayer requests for which we could be praying as we gathered. I really didn’t expect the response I received. The counselor responded with four rather lengthy and detailed concerns/worries that the principal had for the students, teachers, and staff of this elementary school. This list was shared with the team that prayed over their school.
We pray for our children when they may be having difficulty in school and at those times we may also contact their teacher/counselor. What if we take time to get to know their teacher(s) and principal, to ask a little about them and find out how we can be praying for them (not to impress them, but just because we care for them)? We might be surprised at their response. We could then pray for them in a more informed manner. Moms in Prayer International is a ministry that gathers moms to pray for our children in schools. But dads can also join together to pray for and with our children regarding their education. What might the Lord be waiting to do in the lives of teachers, administrators, staff, and students in our schools, as we bring those concerns to Him?
There is a school near each of us. Perhaps it is where our neighborhood families attend, and we pass by it regularly. Perhaps we know of a teacher, administrator, staff member, counselor, or maintenance person who works there. How might the Lord be inviting us to pray for them? We are encouraged to pray for our leaders, and educators are among those leaders. Some may say, “but I don’t agree with them.” That’s OK. Jesus says we are to pray, even for our enemies. If anything, perhaps the 1962 Supreme Court decision was an invitation to greater prayer for our students and schools, keeping our eyes open for God’s amazing answers.