So you read the title of this article, and your back has already tightened up. As we speak, your mind is powering up remembered “prayer” passages from the Bible as your eyes drift down to find the comment section of this post. But before you have a cow, or some other farm animal, read closely. I believe prayer is important. I pray, I value prayer, and encourage others to do so.
But holy steaming manure Batman, not only have many of us Christians turned prayer into everything Jesus never intended it to be, we have also become so ridiculous about this “prayer in school” issue.
“You need to pray more of this,” “you need to pray about that,” “pray this way,” “don’t pray that way,” “pray here, but not there.” Hot off the shelf, “6 steps to more effective prayer,” “10 steps to bending the ear of God.” All with the vibe, if you aren’t doing prayer like us, you aren’t doing prayer.
I mean seriously, we have created such a huge fermenting debacle out of prayer; eroding it into spectacle, verbosity, formula, ritual, work, Law, and God arm pulling.
Yes, I believe prayer is important, Yes, giving a time for all students to silently reflect or pray as school begins seems benign. For the individual this can be either religious or not, and always kept personal. I get it.
But common, nothing is perhaps worse than Christians who have become reckless about the issue of prayer in schools. Some demand that students have a set time to pray in school (even audibly) and whine like little school girls when in some instances they don’t get their way, or their way is threatened. Many blame the lack of prayer in school, or its restriction, as the reason why students’ behaviors and morals are in decline. Some, even go as far as to say that if prayer (the Christian kind of course) was more prevalent and planned in school, there wouldn’t be near the school shootings and other tragedies. “Don’t let them throw God out of school” is the battle cry of many, as if that would be possible anyways. I’m just shooting in the dark here, but I think I remember reading a semi important figure in the Bible discovering something like… “I can never be lost to your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.” Gee, I wonder if that includes schools. Probably only those where Christians are praying.
It all makes perfect sense to me now. Duh, God only answers prayers from certain locations, right? God thinks to Himself, “Yeesh, I could have kept that tragedy from happening if they only allowed or encouraged kids to pray in school.”
It’s interesting to me, how many Christian adults care so much about having kids pray in school, but never, or rarely pray at home. And by the way, that religious “bless this food, Jesus” around the KFC bucket doesn’t count. Ranting about prayer in school all while buying your kids tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert, sounds like a plan to me.
I mean really, does God think to Himself, “Now that you asked me to ‘bless this food’ not only will I Jesus-zap the Ecoli out of it, but I will make it send your body into the next level of fitness and vitality.” It’s so obvious this is the way God works with prayer. I mean can’t you tell by how healthy, fit, and slim all those Christians are who religiously ask God to, “bless this food, Jesus.” Besides, no one ever gets sick at the local church barbecue… never.
Nothing lacking or present in the daily school life of a child can resurrect what is being put to death or ignored at home.
Furthermore, none of this is to even begin to get into the whole issue of Church and state and the constitutional restrictions and freedoms thereof.
I find it interesting that Jesus taught…
And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you. Don’t recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! -Matthew 6:5-8
See, if you pray the way Jesus taught, every person has the freedom to pray biblically anywhere at anytime. And believe it or not, Jesus listens and responds to it just as much (and maybe more. *wink wink).
I know, but there’s no spectacle in that, no religious pushing and shoving, no freedom fight, no work, no spiritual notch on your belt, no protest. Praying Jesus-style takes all the Evangelical fun out of it. Dang nab it.
Did I say fun? My bad, I really meant “flesh.” Stupid spell corrector.
“We just need to keep prayer in school.” “God is offended we are keeping Him out of schools” It sounds all so spiritual, like we are real-deal Christians, but it’s so reflective of how religious, insecure, selfish, political, parental-outsourcing, and Jesus-doubting we have become. We obviously believe prayer is primarily about location (school), behavior modification and personal performance (kids do better), and getting God to do certain things He wouldn’t normally do or hasn’t done. This is absurd and nothing like Jesus’ attitude towards prayer.
“I don’t entertain guests in my closet. You’ll never hear me tell visitors after dinner, “Why don’t we step into the closet for a chat?”. Denalyn and I prefer the living room or the den. God apparently likes to chat in the closet. The point? He’s low on fancy, high on accessibility. To pray at the Vatican can be meaningful. But prayers offered at home carry as much weight as prayers offered in Rome. Travel to the Wailing Wall if you want. But prayer at your backyard fence is just as effective. The One who hears your prayers is your Daddy. You needn’t woo him with location.” -Max Lucado
Let’s stop outsourcing and pushing prayer onto schools. Let’s do our jobs at home to spiritually lead the way. Trust me, teachers and administrators would trade their salaries for parents to start doing that.
Let’s see prayer as a way of life, a humble communication with God, not a spectacle, ritual, or Evangelical badge to be worn.
Prayer is simply talking and listening to God. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s not how you pray, as if God were into verbosity, postures, formality, formulas, or eloquence as a condition or key for prayer.
It’s not where you pray, as if God was a location snob, territorial, or contextually limited.
It’s not how long you pray, as if God were holding a stop watch, doing a word count, or was impressed by stamina, waiting for that “o.k, that’s enough” moment to respond. The false notion that “the more you pray, the more God responds” places the power of prayer on you and not God.
It’s not how hard you pray, as if you have to bend God’s ear, wrench His blessings, or prove you’re seriousness in order for Him to reply or to increase His willingness to reply favorably.
It’s not how loud you pray, as if God is hard of hearing.
It’s not how good you are as a person, as if anyone’s righteousness before God comes from their own performance.
God already knows what you need long before you ask, He knows the desires of your heart, long before you express them.
So, why pray?
It’s simple, because God enjoys hearing from you and you could benefit from hearing from Him. Prayer, from a posture of thanksgiving and faith, draws our minds and hearts to all that we already have in and with Jesus, and reminds us that He works out all things for our good. Prayer is not about getting what you want, but much more about embracing, enjoying, and resting in all the you already have in Him.
In prayer, you don’t get anything more from God that you don’t already have, you just become more aware of it, and thus can enjoy it, harness it, believe in it, and be blessed by it. Bam, there ya have it!
Make you prayers full of thanksgiving, words (declarations) of faith, and honest requests. Then… listen, with the Holy Spirit as your guide.
Keep it simple, personal, and genuine. And for crying out loud, stop being so ridiculous, pushy, and preoccupied with prayer in schools. Jesus is bigger and prayer is higher, deeper, and wider than all of that.
If your particular brand of Christianity requires you be pushy, be pushy about making sure prayer happens at home. And even more so, be pushy about making sure you and your kids have the right heart, understanding, and attitudes toward it.