WHAT ABOUT STUDENT-INITIATED PUBLIC PRAYER IN SCHOOLS?
(FROM A JUDEO-CHRISTIAN
Have our hearts become so hardened that we have
accepted the atheists' world view that public schools are to be
"religion free zones" and that school boards are to insure that
public vocal religious expression does not creep into the schools?
While courts have rejected these notions, many people continue to
believe that this is just the way things are and that nothing can be
done about it. Students across America are ready to change that
perception and believe that they have a solid constitutional basis
for doing so.
BIG PROBLEMS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. WHY?
"Our schools are turning into killing fields."
NBC Nightly News, April 20, 1999. Why all the problems in public
schools? Some have suggested that the separating of our public schools
from religious principles, which began in 1962 with the Engel v.
Vitale case, has played a role. In Engel v. Vitale, the
Court held that government required prayers are unconstitutional--and
since most all prayers at the time were government required, when
prayers were no longer led by school officials, vocal public prayer was
dramatically decreased or stopped altogether in many of America's
Problems in the school-age youth population have
escalated to the point that in a single 17 month period (from October 1,
1997 through April 20, 1999), students gunned down 101 fellow students
and teachers, leaving 30 dead--all in public schools; all during regular
school hours. Some have suggested a spiritual connection. But, how
could anyone contend that the absence of simple prayers would have an
impact on schools and youth (after all, weren't most schools simply
having students recite a rote prayer--which many students probably
recited without much thought.) Perhaps it was something deeper.
Arguing in favor of the existence of God, the
supernatural, and miracles, Dr. M. Scott Beck, in his best selling book
"The Road Less Traveled," noted:
together with all the other instances: times I just missed being hit by
cars while on foot, on a bicycle or driving; times when I was driving a
car and almost struck pedestrians or barely missed bike riders in the
dark; times when I jammed on the brakes, coming to a stop no more than
an inch or two from another vehicle; times when I narrowly missed skiing
into trees, almost fell out of windows; times when a swinging golf club
brushed through my hair, and so on. What is this? Do I lead a charmed
existence? If readers examine their own lives at this point, I suspect
the majority will find in their own personal experiences similar
patterns of repeated narrowly averted disasters, a number of accidents
that almost happened that is many times greater than the number of
accidents that actually did happen...not the result of any process of
conscious decision-making....Could it really be that the line in the
song is true: "Tis grace hath brought me safe this far"? (p. 240)
[P]eople not infrequently walk unharmed out of vehicles crushed beyond
recognition, and it seemed ridiculous to speculate that the machinery
instinctively crumpled in a configuration to protect the rider or that
the rider crumpled instinctively in a form to fit the machinery....[S]uch
implausible conjunctions of events in time occur more frequently than
would be predicted by chance alone. (p.255)
The very night that Kelly Coghlan was drafting
this portion of this document, his sister was involved in a horrific
auto accident. She was driving a pick-up truck at about 60 m.p.h.,
swerved to miss an animal and lost control. The truck rolled two
complete times on its side and then flipped end-over-end landing crushed
upside down in the oncoming lane of traffic. At the time of the
accident, the truck was transporting a large load of lumber, a cat in
the front seat and a dog chained to a large toolbox in the truck's back
bed. The cat, dog, and driver escaped from the accident virtually
unscathed. When the truck landed upside down, the roof collapsed in
every place except where the driver was seated. The next day, Kelly's
family was discussing details of the accident and discovered that each
of them had independently prayed, just hours before the accident, for
the protection and safety of Kelly's sister. Yes, people die in
accidents, but implausible events of protection and rescue occur more
frequently than would be predicted by mere chance.
Over the past several years, there have been a
number of scientific studies conducted on the effects of prayer. On May
20, 1999, a report broadcast on 20/20 entitled "Adopt A Sister," began
as follows: "You may remember a small, but astonishing, study in 1998
that showed that AIDs patients who did not know that they were being
remembered in the prayers of others were healthier a few months latter
than a control group of AIDs patients who had received no prayers. [T]he
medical community is coming to realize the role of spirituality in human
Is it possible that while God was officially
recognized and honored in our public school system (prior to 1962/63)
that God provided an undetectable covering of protection over the
institution? If God exists, and if God can silently move behind the
scenes to protect and bless individuals, can He do the same for entire
institutions? And, if people can individually take themselves from
under God's blessings, can institutions? Could it be that when the
Supreme Court (being the highest level of government in America's
political system) officially ceased government's recognition of God in
public schools, the Court inadvertently moved the schools out from under
much of God's protection and blessing by breaching a basic spiritual
1. Numbers 6:22-27
(from the Torah): "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to Aaron
and to his sons, saying, `Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel; You
shall say to them: The Lord bless you, and keep you, the Lord
make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His
countenance on you, and give you peace.' So they shall invoke my
name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them."
Lesson: Some ask, "Why the need for public vocal prayers when people
can pray privately by themselves for the same things?" The principle
from the above verse is that when God's name is invoked publicly and
vocally over the people (i.e., "say to them"), God "then will
bless them." The public recognition of God releases something good. It
is a supernatural law in which God essentially says, "You do this and
I'll do that." The first commandment recorded in Exodus 20 states, "You
shall have no other gods before Me....for I, the Lord God, am a jealous
God...." As nations, individuals and institutions, a public and vocal
reverence, recognition and honoring of God is essential to receiving the
supernatural blessings that God can provide over such nations,
individuals and institutions.
2. Psalms 35:18 (KJ):
"I will give thee thanks in the great congregation: I will
praise thee among much people."
3. Psalms 66:8 (KJ):
"O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be
4. Psalms 127:1:
"Unless the Lord builds the [school] house, they labor in vain
who build it; unless the Lord guards the city [school], the watchman
keeps awake in vain." If God is eliminated from the equation and man
looks only to his own efforts, the endeavor will eventually fail (i.e.,
when this occurred in Europe, we got Fascism, Nazism and
Communism--which all failed).
5. II Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves and
pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will
hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
6. Psalms 91: "He
who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow
of the Almighty...For it is He who delivers you from the snare of
the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you
with His pinions...His faithfulness is a shield...You will not be
afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow [bullet] that flies by
day...No evil will befall you...For He will give His angels charge
concerning you, to guard you in all your ways...." [i.e., God's
invisible hand of protection].
7. Once God is taken out of
an institution, there is nothing left but a reliance upon mankind--Jeremiah
17:5,7 ("Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes
flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord"). How
might this apply to modern day public schools?
8. II Chronicles 15:2-4:
"[T]he Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He
will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.
And for many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching
priest and without law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord
God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him."
9. Joshua 7:12: "I
will not be with you any more unless you destroy the things under
the ban from your midst."
10. Isaiah 59:2:
"But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your
And your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear."
11. Deuteronomy 8:10:
"When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your
God....Beware lest you forget the Lord your God...."
12. Exodus 20:4,5: "You
shall have no other gods before Me.... I, the Lord your God, am a
13. Proverbs 3:6: "In
all your ways acknowledge Him [God] and He will make your paths
14. Jeremiah 28:12:
"Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will
listen to you."
15. Malachi 3:7: "`Return to
Me, and I will return to you,' says the Lord of hosts."
16. James 4:8: "Draw near to God
and He will draw near to you."
17. Psalms 145:18: "The Lord is
near to all who call upon Him."
18. Proverbs 16:6: "By
the fear [reverence] of the Lord one keeps away from evil."
19. Psalms 111:9: "The
fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
20. Joel 2:13,25: "Now
return to the Lord your God...Then I will make up to you for the
years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the
stripping locust, and the gnawing locust."
In 1787, after the War for Independence from
Britain had been won, as the founding fathers were holding meetings to
draft a constitution, the delegates came to a hopeless deadlock after
meeting for more than two months. Alexander Hamilton, the delegate from
New York had already gone home in disgust. At that crucial moment,
Benjamin Franklin, believing the scriptures, rose to his feet on the
floor of the Constitutional Convention and called for the reinstitution
of daily vocal public prayers, saying:
In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of
danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. Our
prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us
who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances
of a superintending Providence in our favor....And have we now forgotten
that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need his
I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more
convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God governs in the affairs
of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice,
is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been
assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the
house, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; an I
also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this
political building no better than the builders of Babel....
I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the
assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in
this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business....
There are conflicting accounts as to whether a
formal vote was taken on Franklin's motion (although there is evidence
that public prayer took place thereafter in the Convention), but it is
indisputable that, thereafter, the delegates found common ground and the
Constitution was born. One year and nine months after Franklin's
remarks, on April 7, 1789, one day after the Senate of the First
Congress convened with a quorum, the Senate appointed a committee "to
take under consideration the manner of electing chaplains." On April
25, 1789, the Senate elected its first chaplain. On May 1, 1789, the
House elected its first chaplain. On September 22, 1789, Congress
passed a statute providing for payment of chaplains. Three days later,
on September 25, 1789, Congress reached final agreement on the language
of the First Amendment (including the Establishment Clause). The First
Congress obviously perceived no conflict between the Establishment
Clause and vocal, public prayer in a government organized setting on
Franklin's words answer the question this paper poses: "Why public
vocal prayer?" Franklin's experience showed him that God blesses
institutions when God is publicly recognized, honored and sought. In
excluding a public and vocal recognition and honoring of God in the
public arena of schools, has our public school system, in some respects,
become America's modern day Tower of Babel? There are 48,000,000
students attending public schools in America. And the number of
secondary school-age students is on the rise: "The U.S. Census
Department says the American teen population is on a growth spurt. From
31 million last year to an estimated 50 million by the year 2010."
Dateline NBC (NBC television broadcast, July 7, 1999). If something
does not change, the problems are likely to get worse as the teen
population swells in this country over the next ten years. The time to
do something is now.
HISTORICALLY BEEN USED TO FORMALIZE
AND MARK THE
BEGINNING OF OCCASIONS
Those against public vocal prayer are always
quick to say that students can pray privately on school grounds. That
misses the point. In this country, we have always begun public events
with public, vocal formalizations to mark the beginning of
events--whether it be by warm words of welcome, a thought, a song, a
quote, a prayer or otherwise. But now, we single out prayer as the one
means of vocal formalization that should no longer be welcomed? Such
logic is an attack on the appropriateness of vocal public prayers, and
yet the House and Senate open every day with a vocal public prayer over
government owned public address systems; the Supreme Court and all other
federal courts open each day with a public vocal prayer that states
"God, save the United States and this Honorable Court;" and many school
boards open their meetings with public vocal prayer over government
owned public address systems. Do we need God's blessing any less upon
our public schools than upon our other government institutions that
vocally and publicly seek God's blessings upon them?
Editorial Note: What the United States
Supreme Court has said that school officials may not do, students acting
on their own can do to have prayer in public schools, to return a
recognition of God and a reverence for God to public schools, and to
publicly seek God's blessings on public schools and on the forty eight
million students who attend them. If students will rise up across
America and recognize and honor God publicly in their schools and seek
Him once again, there is no doubt that He will answer.
PARENTS, AND CLERGY SHOULD GET INVOLVED
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke.
1. Esther 4:14: "For
if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise
for the Jews from another place and you and your father's house will
perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such
a time as this."
2. Psalms 71:18: "And
even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I
declare Thy strength to this generation, Thy power to all who are to
3. Numbers 13:27-33,
14:3-10: "We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely
it floweth with milk and honey....Nevertheless the people be strong that
dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great....And
Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once,
and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." But the
men who went up with him said, "We be not able to go up against the
people: for they are stronger than we....And there we saw the giants...and
we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their
sight....[W]ere it not better for us to return into Egypt....Let us make
a captain, and let us return into Egypt....Then Moses and Aaron...Joshua
and Caleb...spake...saying..."rebel not ye against the Lord, neither
fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence
is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not."
Lesson: Sure, any effort that might
result in prayer in public schools will be met with opposition--even
from well meaning individuals--but those who understand the importance
of this must face the giants, fight the battles with God's help, and go
forward with what is believed to be His will in this. The public school
have already "wandered in the wilderness" for a long time (since
1962--almost thirty seven years). How much longer?
4. I Kings 18:20-40:
"Then said Elijah...I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but
Baal's prophets are 450.... And call ye on the name of your gods, and I
will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire,
let him be God.... [T]he prophets of Baal...called on the name of Baal
from morning even until noon saying O Baal, hear us. But there was no
voice, nor any that answered....and when midday was past, and they
prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that
there was neither voice, nor any to answer....Elijah the prophet came
near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be
known this day that thou art God....that this people may know that thou
art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, the
wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in
the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces
and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God."
Lesson: As illustrated by the above,
give the real God His ten minutes and He will reveal Himself and let all
know who is the true God. Quantity of time is not a factor.
5. Micah 4:5: "Though
all the peoples walk each in the name of his god, as for us, we will
walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever."
6. Jeremiah 2:11:
"Has a nation changed gods, when they were not gods? "But my people
have changed their glory for that which does not profit."
SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC, VOCAL PRAYER
1. Matthew 6:10: "Thy kingdom
come. They will be done, On earth as it is in heaven."
Is it God's will in heaven that He be
proclaimed and honored on Earth? If so, should we attempt to carry out
that part of His will everywhere, including public schools?
2. Matthew 5:13-14:
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless,
how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing any more,
except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the
light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men
light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on the lamp-stand; and it
gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before
men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your
Father who is in heaven."
Lesson: We are told to be "salt" and
"light" in our society "in such a way that they may see...."
Jesus conducted his ministry in public, not in private, and not only in
the synagogues. He healed, preached, and prayed in public. On the day
of pentecost when 3,000 were saved, the preaching and prayers were done
in public. The disciples did the same--publicly proclaiming the gospel,
praying and healing in public. There is nothing unconstitutional about
genuinely student initiated public vocal prayer. Prayerful speech must
be afforded the same dignity and legal protection as is given similar
3. II Corinthians 4:13:
"But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I
Believed, Therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore also we speak...."
4. Acts 1:8: "You shall be my
witnesses...to the uttermost part of the earth."
5. Romans 1:16: "For
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation
to every one who believes...."
6. Matthew 21:12-13:
"And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying and
selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, `It
is written, `My House Shall Be Called A House Of Prayer;' but
you are making it a robbers' den.'"
Lesson: It is interesting that the
one time in scripture we see Jesus taking decisive physical adversarial
action is in connection with a "prayer" issue; prayer was not taking
place where it was supposed to be taking place--other worldly activities
had crowded in.
7. Acts 4:17-20: "But
in order that it may not spread any further among the people, let us
warn them to speak no more to any man in this name. And when they had
summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the
name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, `Whether
it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God,
you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and
Note: This is one of the few clear
examples in the Bible of permissible (and perhaps required) Christian
civil disobedience. The authorities of the day told the Christians to
not "speak or teach in the name of Jesus," but Peter and John said that
they must "give heed...to God" rather than to the legal authorities when
it came to speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus. [Compare this to
Romans 13:1-3: "Let every person be in subjection to the governing
8. 1 Thessalonians 5:17:
"Pray without ceasing."
9. Ephesians 6:18: "With all
prayer and petition, Pray at all times in the Spirit..."
10. Luke 18:1: "Now He
was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to
pray and not to lose heart...."
11. 1 Timothy 2:8: "Therefore, I
want the men in every place to pray...."
12. Matthew 6:5-7: "And
when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to
stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order
to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in
full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you
have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your
Father who sees in secret will repay you."
Lesson: This verse must not be taken
out of context. This is talking about private prayers, for immediately
after Jesus spoke these words, he proceeded to give a publicly stated
vocal prayer to the crowd (the Lord's Prayer). There is a distinction
between private prayers and public blessing/prayers (See Numbers
6:22-27). In the historical context of the time, some would stand on
the corner and shout out their private prayers so that everyone
would think them super religious (for at the time, it was a good thing
to be thought of as extremely religious). People who prayed on a street
corner were exalting themselves and raising their social status at the
same time. Their motivation for praying was "in order to be seen by
men." The same is not true today. In our society, one who would loudly
pray on a street corner would generally be looked on as a fool. Today,
if a student prays publicly (as in asking for God's blessing and
protection over a group), it is not for the purpose of gaining "cool"
status among peers. The student is as likely to be ridiculed as to be
appreciated. Indeed, in our society, religious students have even been
singled out for ridicule and death as in Columbine High School and the
Ft. Worth church shootings.
13. Matthew 10:27:
"What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear
whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops."
14. Ephesians 6:12-14:
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the
rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this present
darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly
places...having done everything, stand. Stand firm....
15. John 15:20: "If they persecuted
Me, they will also persecute you."
16. Matthew 19:1: "But
Jesus said, `Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from
coming to Me.'"
School board members should consider
the application of this to them before voting to block, prevent, or
stifle any effort by students that would permit constitutional public
vocal student initiated prayers to occur in public schools.
17. Matthew 18:6: "But
whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it
is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his
neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea."
18. Matthew 10:32,33:
"Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also
confess him before My Father, who is in heaven. But whoever shall
deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in
END THEIR PRAYERS "IN JESUS' NAME"?
The phrase, "in Jesus name," stated at the end of
Christian prayers, is not a tag line intended to offend Jews, Moslems,
atheists or others. Christians are merely obeying a basic commandment
of their faith:
1. John 16:24,26:
[Jesus said,] "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name.
Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full....In that day
you will ask in My name...."
2. John 14:13,14:
[Jesus said,] "And whatever you ask in My name that will I do,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in
My name, I will do it."
3. John 15:16: [Jesus
said,] "... so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He
may give it to you."
4. Colossians 3:17:
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord
Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."
5. Acts 3:6: "I do
not possess silver and gold, but what I do have, I give to you: "In
the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene--walk!"
6. Acts 4:12: "And
there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name
under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
7. John 12:32: [Jesus
said,] "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself."
If someone prays in the name of "Allah" or
"Jesus" or "The Lord God of Israel," and the listener is a non-adherent
to the particular name, the listener may believe that the person has
prayed to nothing. How can one logically be offended if they believe
someone has spoken to the air? There are many children who believe in
Santa Claus and tell others of their faith in and petitions to him.
Does this offend anyone? A reasoned reaction might be amusement, but
not insult. The same should be true concerning religious expression.
Another's prayer should offend no one any more than a child's heart-felt
proclamation: "Santa Claus is coming to town." A sincere prayer is not
intended to offend but rather to honor God and seek protection and
blessing for believers and non-believers alike. The idea of a person
being offended by the expression of another's sincere prayer may simply
be a euphemism for intolerance. Silencing prayer is not the answer;
tolerance is the answer.