Advantage of Prayer in SchoolQUESTION: Is there an advantage of prayer in school?ANSWER:
Ever since the landmark cases in the early 1960s (Engel v. Vitale 1962 and Murray v. Curlett, 1963) removing prayer from American public schools, many have asked if there is any advantage of prayer in school. Is it a useless religious practice that rightfully was removed? Or, are there benefits that are now sadly lacking in our schools?
Before answering those questions, let's address a more fundamental question. What type of prayer are we talking about - to which God are these prayers being offered? The prayers that led to the 1963 Supreme Court decision were prayers offered to the God of the Bible. In addition, the founders of the American Republic acknowledged no other God except the biblical God. John Adams once said, "We recognize no sovereign but God, and no king but Jesus!
" Furthermore, Patrick Henry declared, "It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ." Therefore, we are talking about prayer to the Bible's God.
One of the benefits of school prayer identified by John Adams is that it will promote good citizenship. In 1798, John Adams said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." The very next year, George Washington stated, "What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ." The "religion of Jesus Christ" definitely included the practice of prayer. Prayer can make better citizens.
Another benefit identified by the Founding Fathers is that prayer in school can promote virtuous living. In 1790 Samuel Adams said, "Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity. . .and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system." Prayer can promote more virtuous living.
A third benefit of school prayer is that it can decrease the natural egocentrism to which all mankind is prone. Praying for others can cause students to think more of their fellows than of themselves. It can also foster the idea that living for others is better than living for one's self. Prayer also fosters the concept that we all are dependent upon God. This sense of dependence will also lead to lives lived in thankfulness. In short, prayer in schools may produce better people as well as better students.
Finally, by praying to the God of the Bible, students may seek to know Him better. Preparing students for productive and happy lives on earth is important. However, investing in their eternal careers yield almost infinite benefits.
As we look at the changes that have occurred since school prayer was outlawed, can we say that the conditions on our school campuses are better or worse? Can we say that the moral fabric of our youth is better or worse? Can we say that our children are less self-absorbed or more self-absorbed? Are reading and achievement test scores climbing or falling? In other words, are our schools better off or worse off now than they were in 1960? Admittedly, whatever decline in schooling we may have seen over the past forty years cannot be attributed wholly to the removal of school prayer. However, without it, our school have lost a powerful tool for promoting citizenship, virtue, servanthood, and reverence.