Should Prayer Be Allowed in School?
On Election Day, I stood in line at an elementary school to exercise the wonderful privilege of voting in our American democracy. As I stood there, I was contemplating my assignment - to write an article entitled: "Should Prayer Be Allowed in School?"
Our right to vote and our right to religious freedom are the two things that set Americans apart from much of the rest of the world. I began musing on the strange similarities involved in these seemingly disparate issues.
First, not all Americans avail themselves of these rights. Of the 198 million Americans who were old enough to vote in 2000, only 123 million (62%) registered. Of those who registered, 102 million actually voted (83%). So, a little more than half the eligible Americans cared enough to participate in our democratic process.
A recent poll in Psychology Today shows that 80% of American men and 92% of American women pray, at least occasionally.
So, isn't it a little odd that American citizens who would shout from the rooftops if they were denied the right to vote don't seem to have a problem with government attempts to deny their right to pray - at least in schools?
Another similarity between voting and praying - many people who participate in these activities worry that they won't really have an impact. Voters often fear their votes won't count for anything, and the faithful worry that their prayers won't change anything.
I wonder whether we aren't looking at these rights in the wrong light.
Prayer isn't really about changing God. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. If we could change Him to see things our way, we would be silly to do it. Prayer is really a way to change ourselves so that we conform to God's will.
I wonder whether voting isn't similar. Aren't we a little more likely to care about our government when we participate in it? Don't we understand the issues better when we have opinions on them?
We've heard a lot about prayer being banned in schools. What actually happened in some schools is the practice of praying out loud during assemblies or graduations was banned. Many of the Christians who found that objectionable might want to look at their Bibles:
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6).
We are told in the Bible to pray constantly, but not always aloud. We are to pray for others and to go out and make disciples. But we are not told to force our Christianity on anyone.
So my conclusion is, yes, we should allow prayer in schools. But it isn't necessary to pray aloud and it isn't necessary to prevent non-Christians from praying their own silent prayers.
Let's not forget that God is in charge. He knows us, He knows what we need. He even knows the outcome of our elections in advance. Without Him, well, we wouldn't have a prayer.
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