Many students and teachers are returning to school this week. Americans take a keen interest in their schools because we understand they have a central role in shaping the next generation of voters and leaders. As followers of Jesus, we also know that schools are a place where students have the opportunity to tell their friends about Jesus and where teachers have the chance to show kindness to students they may have never experienced before. Even if you do not have children in school, what happens there matters both to the church and to our country, so you should be in daily prayer for our schools.
Here are five ways that you can pray for teachers and students as they return to school this month:
Pray for Protection from COVID
Most teachers and students assumed this year would be back to business as usual, but now they find themselves returning to school amidst a surge of COVID cases nationwide. Many schools are requiring masks and social distancing measures to mitigate the spread of COVID, but students often grow weary of the guidelines within a few weeks of school beginning.
There have been very few outbreaks in schools so far, but the new strains of COVID are presenting new challenges. Pray that students will be protected so they can continue to pursue their educations without further setbacks. They have already missed so much over the last eighteen months, and further disruptions could put students, especially those from disadvantaged households, even farther behind.
Pray for Insulation from Political Battles
For many years, teachers and students have been pawns in political battles between the right and the left. This summer, there was a spate of laws seeking to dictate how teachers teach American History. Those who advocate the 1619 Project and anti-racism training have an agenda they want to push on the schools, and some school boards and legislatures overreacted by trying to keep teachers from talking about slavery at all.
Our students need help in learning to read, process information, and express their opinion. They need access to the tools they need to learn in a fast-paced world. They don’t need to be the rope in a tug of war between the right and the left in the United States. When the culture war comes to school, students lose.
Pray for Students Who Have Been Isolated
Some schools were virtual all year last year. Others offered a virtual option, which some students used for the entire school year. In either case, thousands of students will be walking back into a classroom for the first time since March 2020. The last year has been filled with stress and difficulty. They have had to process that stress by themselves or by using the Internet.
Many students returning to school have already been experiencing depression and anxiety. The newness of returning to the classroom will only exacerbate this issue. Pray for teachers to have wisdom as they help these students and for the students to find peace. We also need to pray for students to develop genuine friendships to supplement the ones they curate online. They need real friends who know the real them, not just the version they show to the world on the Internet.
Pray for Wisdom for Christian Teachers
Christian teachers cannot stand in the front of the class and give them an altar call, nor should we want them to. However, there are many opportunities for teachers to love students in the name of Jesus and offer explanations of the Christian faith within the confines of the stated curriculum. Teachers in science help students explore the order and harmony in the universe. World History classes delve into the history of the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant Reformation. American History teachers explain the distinctives of the First and Second Great Awakenings to students.
Teachers also have the chance to show kindness to students who rarely experience it. I heard a story recently about a teacher who spoke to a student in an unkind manner and then apologized to the student and asked for her forgiveness. She said no one had ever said that to her before. In her experience, people spoke rudely and just expected you to deal with it. Teachers offer advice to students regarding their futures. Sometimes they offer the only kind words a student ever hears.
Pray for Boldness for Christian Students
More and more, students are raised in homes with no Gospel witness or Christian influence. The witness of Christian students in schools becomes all the more important because they might be the only access that some students have to the truth of the Gospel. Christian students have a unique opportunity to make a difference for Christ through how they live their lives and the words they speak.
Christian students also stand out more against the backdrop of the world than they have before. Their views on gender, sexuality and the reality of truth will make them seem odd to their peers. Pray for them to stand firm in what they know to be true while also showing gentleness and graciousness in their words. They need to be able to speak uncompromising truth in a kind and compelling way.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Krisanapong Detraphiphat
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”