Christians, like all humans, fuss about things, and a central fussing point of the last many years is prayer in schools.
“Our country is falling apart because we no longer have prayer in schools,” people say, emphasizing the point with 2 Chronicles 7: 14 —
“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 I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
All our problems? It’s because we no longer pray in schools.
When Did We Do This?
Given that I’m more than a half-century old, and at no point, in my school years, did we pray in schools, I’m not sure when these halcyon days of Christian piety were supposed to exist, but whether or not they did, there are three major reasons why we Christians do not need to — and probably should not — agitate for prayer in schools.
Governed by Men, not God
1) We are not a theocracy. The passage in 2 Chronicles is addressed to an ancient Hebrew people, who ran their government with God as their head — something that the contemporary state of Israel does not do, much less the United States.
But because we have this mistaken notion that we are a Christian country, with Christian roots, we keep hammering away for the external actions, like prayer in schools, that used to be foisted upon children, whether they were Christians or not.
“Everyone should be,” proponents sniffed. They sniff the same thing today.
As God’s people, Christians are not hampered, at all, from fulfilling the command in 2 Chronicles 7: 14, but they do not need to do it in the schools, or in government buildings (how well does mandated, corporate prayer in a secular setting work, do you think, given that Congress still opens with a diluted form of it?), or even in their churches: It is imperative that Christians pray individually, in their homes, and sincerely — not relying upon the public arena where we applaud the speaker’s spirituality:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” (That’s how our politicians pray.)
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6: 5, 6) We can do this anytime, any place, and without anyone seeing or knowing — an important factor as our country tightens its control over the populace and slides moves more and more into the confines of a police state.
Do you want a government employee — and that’s what public school teachers are — inserting him- or herself into the spiritual life of your child?
There Are “gods” and God
2) We do not all believe in the same God. People like to point to our dollar bill, which has, “In God we trust,” emblazoned across the back. To the left is a pyramid with a disconnected, all seeing eye and the motto Annuit Coeptis (loosely, “Providence favors our undertakings,” which is a great motto for a country with the primary goal of making money) and Novus Ordo Seclorum (New World Order — do you like that one?).
So . . . if this is the God who said,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” (Deuteronomy 6: 4)
do you think he approves of pagan symbolism (the pyramid, the “eagle” on the great seal that functions more as the mythical Phoenix rising) in conjunction with, “In God We Trust”?
What God are we talking about here?
If we’re going to turn this into a 12-step program and say any God, or Goddess, just so long as we feel like it’s a Supreme Being, then we dilute the prayer into nothingness, and we may as well set up an altar to an unseen god at the head of every classroom. (Acts 17: 23)
Do we expect an atheist teacher to pray “in Jesus name”? Do we insist that Christian children bow to Allah, or Muslim children worship Christ? As Christians, praying to god, any god, violates Deuteronomy 6: 4.
Meaningless, It’s All Meaningless
3) Prayer becomes a meaningless ritual. Saying the words does not activate the heart, and whether we mumble our way through grace at a meal, or rattle off a generic prayer at the beginning of the school day, we are in danger of honoring the One True God with our lips while our hearts are far from Him, in which case we worship Him in vain. Our teachings are but rules taught by men. (Matthew 15: 8-9)
Prayer is a conversation with our Father, and as such, it is a privilege, an honor, a joy, and a very serious undertaking. “Our Universal Father or Mother, we honor you,” doesn’t cut it.
We don’t need prayer in public schools. We need individual Christians praying, all the time, within their hearts.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage individual Christians to grow in their relationship with Christ by praying, meditating upon Scripture, and reading the Bible for themselves.
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The Misfit Christian (my book, available at Amazon.com in paperback or digital format. The closer you try to follow Christ, the stranger you will seem in many contemporary churches. If you feel out of step, this is the book for you. If you are not a Christian — but are a seeker who is unimpressed with the Christian culture, this is also the book for you. If I weren’t a Christian already, nothing about the system I see now would encourage me to become one.)