I surely don’t know it all. In fact, in light of last Friday’s tragedy in Newton, CT, I have more questions than answers. I don’t have solutions or great ideas. I’ve stared long and hard at my four-year-old son. I simply can’t imagine dealing with such an event.
The Bible warns of evil days like this1, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept. Thankfully, instead of leaning to our own understanding2 in times like this, we can look to the omniscient One, the ultimate know-it-all. We can also embrace the Holy Spirit, the ultimate Comforter3.
But some Christians seem to have it all figured out. Soon after the tragic news in Newtown, social media was ripe with pat answers, along with the typical wannabe profound statuses. Some remarks added to my grief over the shootings, particularly ones about prayer in school. (I admit that I have many pet peeves with today’s Christiandom and some churches. And apparently God does also; see Rev. 2-3.)
[pull_quote_center]The common premise I saw is this: God opted not to protect or bless 20 precious first-graders or 6 adults because America opted to kick God and prayer out of its schools.[/pull_quote_center]
5 Facts about Prayer
So I decided to share some (apparently little known facts) about prayer in school, along with some personal reflections.
1. Students CAN pray in public school.
First, let’s get that straight, saints. Students can pray in school. Public school. Alone or in groups. It’s their constitutional right. Fortunately, when I attended high school, my youth pastor knew the law. Each morning I gathered for prayer with a group of students. Right outside the main entrance. The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) has tried to educate Christians on this right for years. Last week ACLJ published an article4 reminding Christians that “the right of our students to read the Bible and live out their faith on public school campuses remains protected.”5
2. “See You at the Pole” Gathers Millions to Pray at Schools
There’s even an event called, “See You at the Pole.” Maybe you’ve heard of it? It happens annually. Millions of students nationwide gather at their school’s flagpole to pray. This event is symbolic of the students who pray at their schools throughout the year. On this day they pray for their school, nation, families, and each other. Check out a couple of pictures below that I found on Google:
3. Students CAN carry Bibles to school and read them.
I carried my Bible to school. This was long before tablets and smart phones. This was during the era of big, bulky Bibles. Remember those? Before the pocket-size ones were popular. But none of us cared. My friends and I were “on fire” for God. I remember how dozens of teenagers would cram into my friend Laura’s home once a week. We were hungry to learn more about God and serve Him. The meeting at her home grew so big that it split into two “cells.” Then those two cells split into two more cells. It just kept growing. We all attended different high schools. Most of us led or attended bible studies on our school campuses. My study group met weekly on the front lawn, or sometimes in an empty classroom, to examine God’s Word together and eat our bag lunches. Sometimes we fasted.
4. Students CAN join Bible Clubs in public school.
Believe it or not, Bible clubs are permitted, too.
[pull_quote_center]“Students have a constitution right to initiate and participate in voluntary Bible Clubs or prayer groups on public school campuses. The ACLJ has successfully represented hundreds of students seeking redress for a violation of their constitutionally protected rights to obtain equal access for Bible Clubs or Prayer Groups on their campuses6.”[/pull_quote_center]
I don’t know all the ins and outs of this one. I just know there was one at least one Bible Club at the school I attended (either junior high or high school). By the way, I’m a military brat (Army). I attended quite a few different high schools in my teenage years, because my family moved around so much. There’s a few websites that give more information about this if you’re interested. One of them is religioustolerance.org.
5. Teachers CAN use the Bible in their curriculum and discuss it.
While teachers employed by the public school system can’t preach from the Bible, they can freely answer direct questions asked by any student with respect to God, prayer, or the Bible (shout out to Jamie, a friend and gifted teacher in Tallahassee FL). She tells me, “It’s the student’s constitutional right to ask any question of a teacher and get a direct answer.” In fact,
[pull_quote_center]The Supreme Court has ruled that teaching about religion and using the Bible in the classroom may both exist in any curriculum if they are not a part of religious worship, but are integrated as a part of the offerings within a secular program. The Supreme Court clearly affirmed this position in Stone vs. Graham, when it stated that “the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.“7[/pull_quote_center]
However, not all public school teachers are Christians. So unfortunately, un-separating church and state these days might mean indoctrinating our children with prayers to many gods, not just El-Elyon (our God, “the Most High God”). Think about it. A Muslim teacher might read from the Qur’an. Or a Mormon teacher from the Book of Mormon or other cultic texts. It’s religious freedom for all, not just Christians. My 7th grade science teacher was a hardcore evolutionist but I think the Christians in the class affected her more than she affected us.
6. Mass shootings CAN happen at Christian schools, too.
It happened at a little Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA. Remember that? In 2006. The details are on Wikipedia. I wonder if Christians would be as quick to blame lack of prayer when shootings take place in Christian schools. Maybe they’d say that the teachers are lukewarm and didn’t pray hard enough, or perhaps one of the students snuck in a Ouija board and invited the evil and dark forces to target them.
Churches aren’t exempt from evil knocking on its door either. Most of us know about the deaths of four girls in Birmingham, AL. The year was 1963, and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed. At the girls’ eulogy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “[Their deaths] say to us that we must be concerned not merely about WHO murdered them, but about the system, the way of life and the philosophy which produced the murderers.”
7. We’ve Always Deserved God’s Wrath, From Day One.
One of my friends put this as her public Facebook status:
It’s true that “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23), and as Sonia added later, God planned a solution for this before the foundations!
Now let’s pretend for a moment that America is a God-fearing, holy nation; that every citizen is follower of Christ and lives righteously. No one is lukewarm. Now let’s ponder a question: in a “holy nation” like that, would God allow bad things to happen? To any of its citizens? I think Job and Joseph would disagree, plus Naomi (lost her family), and John the Baptist (beheaded). Think of all those followers of Christ slaughtered by the Apostle Paul (before he was saved). The horror!
But then again, God helped Lot escape Sodom and Gomorrah. He saved Daniel from the lions, helped David defeat Goliath, saved Esther’s people, spared Jonah from the whale, etc.
[pull_quote_center]Maybe it’s just not possible to know what God would do in every situation and why. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we are] fully known” (1 Corin. 13:12).[/pull_quote_center]
8. Parents CAN teach the Bible and prayer to their children at home.
Well, this one is a bit obvious. However, some parents seem to prefer public school teachers to “train up [their] child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). I’m (somewhat playfully) assuming this based on the many tweets about prayer and bible needing to be taught at home first before focusing on prayer in school.
Just yesterday my son yelled out, “God?!” and put his hand to his ear. “I don’t hear God speaking back to me,” he said. Then asked, “Why doesn’t He respond?” Indeed, it starts in the home.
In fact, to that point exactly, here’s a quote from a recent book I read by Dr. Tony Evans. He writes (emphasis mine),
[pull_quote_center]Unrighteous revolution is rebellion that seeks to forcibly change things from the top down. People always want to start with the president when it comes to protesting evil or getting unrighteous laws changed. But the kind of change we [need] rarely ever filters down from the White House. God works from the bottom up through transformation, which is why evangelism and discipleship, which seeks to change the heart, must be at the center of the church’s agenda.[/pull_quote_center]
Equally important, we must pray for our children. A great book to help with this is, “The Power of a Praying Parent.” The Kindle version is only $5.24. (No Kindle? No problem. Install the free Kindle app on your phone or tablet, or view it from a Mac or PC using Amazon’s free Cloud Reader.) This book reminds us of the many important things to pray daily concerning our kids. It even provides sample prayer templates to start you off.
How You Say What You Say
Saints, we have liberty in the non-essentials of our faith. But even still, please be careful how you say what you say. We all get passionate over topics we feel strongly about, particularly when it involves perceived violations of our heavenly Father’s ways or laws. I urge us all to pause a little more before posting certain remarks. Things to ask before posting:
- What if Christ read this over my shoulder? Would I reword anything?
- Do I sound self-righteous, unmerciful or judgmental? Or do I sound loving and compassionate?
- Am I becoming all things to all people that I may win some?8 Or am I losing some?
[pull_quote_center]Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor (1 Peter 2:17 NIV). Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:6 NLT). If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to excolor-box it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way (1 Timothy 3:15).[/pull_quote_center]
Sure, call a spade a spade. Just make sure you’re correct when doing so (such as saying prayer isn’t permitted in schools–when it is in fact permitted). And please, even when you’re “right,” consider the timing, wording, and approach or method in what you’re communicating. We can have the right message but error in the delivery.
Sure, say America’s morality is declining. It is. But also bear in mind that there’s nothing “new” when it comes to immorality. King Solomon put it like this:
[pull_quote_center]History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NLT)[/pull_quote_center]
Abortion for example dates back to ancient times9. Babies were also “thrown away” in Moses’ day. You know the story. Male Israelite babies were killed when born as commanded by the king. Baby Moses of course escaped that fate. King Herod in the New Testament commanded something similar: the senseless slaughter of males newborns because he felt his throne was threatened. There was also mental illness and demon possessed folk in ancient times, along with most every other “ill” we see today.
Does that mean we embrace or surrender to immorality and do not stand for righteousness? Of course not. Does that mean we turn to legislature and look to government to answer or fix all of America’s problems and ills? Um, heck no (re-read the quote above by Dr. Tony Evans).
But I implore you to be sensitive in what you’re saying. Let’s also be careful not to trivialize or over spiritualize issues.
One Christian wrote, “It’s simple. We just need to return to the basics! Our country was founded on biblical principles.” Was it? Pilgrims arrived and violated the Ten Commandments from the door. They stole land from the Native Americans and slaughtered many of them–all in the name of “religious freedom.” And they enslaved folk of African decent on top of that–all while praising Jesus in church on Sunday. Those are two cases where it’s positive that the government intervened, won’t you agree? Furthermore, not all of our Forefathers believed in God or the Bible. Yet, clearly our Pledge of Allegiance says, “One nation under God,” and on our currency is written, “In God we trust.” So even though God isn’t mentioned in The Constitution10, I’ll co-sign that our country was mindful of God in its formation. I’m just not sure how “simple” it is to “just return to the basics.”
There’s no simple answers, folks. We simply don’t know it all. Put five theologians in a room who love the Lord and you might get 5 different answers depending on the topic or question.
But we do have hope. “There is surely a future hope for [us] that will not be cut off” (Prov 23:18). And we do have an answer for the hope that lies within us (1 Peter 3:15). In context of sharing his struggles with sin, Paul declares, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24b, 25a).
But as for everything else, it’s okay not to have all the answers. Really. Because we know the One who does. And saints, He’s in total control. No matter what it seems like, He’s still running the show. Remember, we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corin. 5:7). I’ll end with my favorite scripture: “You will have trouble in this world, but take heart; be of good cheer. For God has overcome the world!” (John 16:33).
Check out the following interesting articles. DISCLAIMER: I’m not necessarily endorsing anything below. Just saying it’s interesting!
- Teaching the Bible in Public Schools?
- Popular Misconceptions About Prayer in Public Schools
- Was America Founded As A Christian Nation?
- I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother
- After ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’ (Washington Post response)
- See 2 Timothy 3:1-4, Matt 24:12, & 2 Peter 3 ↩
- See Prov. 3:5 ↩
- See John 14:15-21 ↩
- To read the article by the ACLJ: Click here ↩
- Quote is from the article by ACLJ ↩
- See Student Bible Clubs Religious Use of School Facilities ↩
- U.S. Supreme Court: Stone vs. Graham, 449 U.S. 39, 42 (1980). Teaching the Bible in Public Schools? ↩
- The Apostle Paul says, “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”–1 Corinthians 9:22 ↩
- Read more here on the history of abortion. Warning: This is pretty detailed and graphic. ↩
- See this interesting Forbes article: Was America Founded As A Christian Nation? Gives some food for thought and makes me want to research this topic. ↩