There is a great debate raging today in the United States over prayers in public schools. Many individuals professing Christianity desire their children to have the opportunity to lead public prayers at school, while many activists see this as unfair to those with different belief systems. Many of these professing Christians have taken their message to the Internet, with a message containing a lament of a “Christian” teenager about the violence in schools and the apparent absence of God in these things, and God responds that “He is not allowed in the schools.” What should the response of Christians be to such things?
There are many reasons why Christians should not promote the use of public prayer in public schools. The following are reasons why:
- The truth about the decisions of the Supreme Court. We should first recognize that the Supreme Court has not prevented individuals from praying to God in the schools. In fact, the Supreme Court has upheld the right for groups to organize in public schools for prayer. Anyone has the right to pray to God in private or in a small group in a public school; the only act not permissible is to have the prayer be made publicly.
- Prayer of what and to whom? We must recognize that as Christians, we make up a small minority in what is deemed “Christendom.” Would you approve of your child sitting through a supplication to Mary by a Roman Catholic? Or a prayer by a Protestant thanking God for salvation by faith alone? As adults, we would not wish to be in such situations, so why would we wish to subject our children to it?
We must also recognize that the past fifty years has seen a change in the “spirituality” of America: many of the other religions in the world, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, have had many adherents moving to America for better living conditions. America is not the “professing Christian” nation it once claimed to be. Shall we recognize public prayers to Allah and Brahman? Would any Christian subject their child to these prayers? I would think not.
- The nature of the prayer. Any prayer done in a public setting will be written in such a way as to not offend the majority of those listening to it. It becomes a “non-denominational” prayer; does it have any actual value? If one can barely invoke the name of Jesus Christ in the prayer, of what benefit is it to the children and/or to God? Do those reading it fall guilty under Matthew 6:5-7?
“And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee. And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
- Who gives the prayer? Most denominations and their adherents do not have a problem with women leading prayers– would you participate or wish to be placed in a situation wherein a woman is leading a public prayer? If not, why would you subject one with less knowledge than you to the same situation?
We as Christians must be on guard to protect ourselves and our children from the propagation of false doctrine, and we must therefore protect our right to pray as we see fit to our God. The words of Jesus bear repeating concerning our prayers in Matthew 6:6:
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
We need not fear that “God is not allowed in school.” We need to fear those who wish to force their version of God upon our children in the schools.