In the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down government-mandated prayer in public schools, but the issue is being pushed across the country. Here is what Tennessee law code 49-6-1004, says about a period of silence or prayer in public schools:
“A. In order for all students and teachers to prepare themselves for the activities of the day, a period of silence of approximately one (1) minute in duration shall be maintained in each grade in public schools at the beginning of each school day. At the opening of the first class each day, it is the responsibility of each teacher in charge of each class to call the students to order and announce that a moment of silence is to be observed.
“The teacher shall not indicate or suggest to the students any action to be taken by them during this time, but shall maintain silence for the full time. At the end of this time, the teacher shall indicate resumption of the class in an appropriate fashion, and may at that time make school announcements or conduct any other class business before commencing instruction.
“B. It is lawful for any teacher in any of the schools of the state that are supported, in whole or in part, by the public funds of the state, to permit the voluntary participation by students or others in prayer. Nothing contained in this section shall authorize any teacher or other school authority to prescribe the form or content of any prayer.
“C. Notwithstanding subsections (a) and (b), nonsectarian and nonproselytizing voluntary benedictions, invocations or prayers that are initiated and given by a student volunteer or student volunteers may be permitted on public school property during school-related noncompulsory student assemblies, school-related student sporting events and school-related commencement ceremonies. Such permission shall not be construed to indicate any support, approval or sanction by the state or any governmental personnel or official of the contents of the benedictions, invocations or prayers or to be the promotion or establishment of any religion, religious belief or sect.”
In listening to people discuss their personal views of prayer in public schools, some seem to have the mistaken view that it is illegal to say any prayers in school. Others are concerned that certain zealous school employees will expose students to proselytizing, interfaith and peer pressure to join in certain prayers or attend religious camps. Still others are asking the government to respect the rights of parents and students by keeping religious rituals out of public schools altogether and allowing each student to pray according to his or her conscience.
Many parents have chosen private schools or home schooling as ways to avoid this problem. Others are teaching their children how to navigate through the education system without getting involved in such affairs. Jesus Christ, however, gave the most practical advice on prayer ever given.
At Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus said, “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They like to stand in synagogues and on street corners to pray so that everyone can see them. I can guarantee this truth: That will be their only reward. When you pray, go to your room and close the door. Pray privately to your Father who is with you. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” — GOD’S WORD Translation.
Based on these words, do you feel Jesus would be involved in today’s controversy regarding prayer in public schools? Does it matter to God whether nations allow public prayers when God can hear us anywhere at any time? You decide.
While Jesus prayed publicly and privately to God, his parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector at Luke 18:9-4 showed that those approaching God in prayer must do so with humility and sincerity. Another requirement to be heard by God is to act in harmony with our prayers and God’s commandments. At Proverbs 28:9, God said, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.” — New International Version.
Who could blame any youth for not wanting to join in prayer groups with strangers or acquaintances they do not know very well, or who do not share their same dedication, faith and beliefs? There is also the matter of who a person is praying to. Some people believe prayers should only be made to God through Jesus, while others pray directly to Jesus as God and others pray to Patron Saints in the name of Jesus. Does this matter to you?
While Jesus taught his followers to pray to his Father in heaven at Matthew 6:9, he also stressed being no part of the world at John 15:19. Would this include staying out of the controversy over prayer in public schools? Keep reading your Bible and by all means, pray about it.