Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
I doubt that this will be a surprise to you: Jesus was big on prayer. You could almost always find Him in prayer, and even when He was busy with people or situations, you can be certain He was talking with the Father.
One way to know this is to look at the life of Jesus, and then look at what He says in the Gospels. As you look through the Gospels, you find Jesus almost always talked with or to people. Yet, He made it clear He was always talking with the Father as well.
Therefore, when Jesus tells us to pray, we can be certain that He didn’t mean occasionally, or whenever we felt in the mood. In other words, as God tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are to “pray without ceasing.”
You may wonder how you can do that. First of all, you don’t need to close your eyes when you pray. That would not be a good idea while driving. Yet, if you have spent much time on the roads of Utah, you know that you should definitely pray while driving — for others and for yourself.
One of the things people ask me is: “How can I pray all the time? It seems I will run out of things to pray about.” God tells us in Philippians 4:6 that we should be anxious about nothing, and pray about everything. So I would say that “everything” means you and I have an endless list of things to pray about. May I make a suggestion in that regard? I encourage you to pray for our schools.
Our school district is filled with over 1,400 teachers and administrators and support personnel, as well as over 14,000 students. All of those students and their families need prayer. Also, go out on the road in the mornings and afternoons and see the many buses transporting precious children. In addition, there are the elected members of the school board, and their support staff. I would say all of that is a good start toward discovering what to pray about.
But that is just a beginning; let’s look deeper at things that may need your prayers.
Consider the tremendous challenges the school district superintendent faces executing his duties. There are so many demands on him coming from different directions. There are procedural updates and legal mandates, and then there are things that special interest groups would like him to believe are mandates. In addition, there are challenging and sometimes heart-wrenching issues that can involve disciplinary actions that demand his attention. For these things, he needs wisdom.
There are budgetary issues too that demand constant attention and difficult decisions. He and his staff barely begin this school year and they must begin to prepare for the next one, all while paying full attention to the current school year.
Consider also the principals, staffs, teachers and students at each school. So many of the students come from a variety of parenting and family cultural backgrounds. There are far too many differences for any one person to know about them all. If there is a problem, many parents immediately assume the teacher or administrator made the mistake, not their child. These issues take much patience, can cause much stress, and can invade the personal lives of teachers and administrators.
Also, consider the children. Each is an individual with hopes and aspirations. Each has unique challenges that may not be obvious, and therefore, not easily discerned by teachers or counselors. It may be that they have a challenging, stressful home life that can easily distract them from the challenges of learning, and once you get behind, it can be a daunting task to catch up.
Add to all of this a tremendous amount of information and fast-paced social demands from students and others. This can cause tremendous stress for students, and for parents, teachers, and administrators.
I don’t believe I am exaggerating the situation. In fact, I know I am not being as clear as I could be about the challenges the various people who make up the “school system” face each school year.
So I believe there is a lot that you and I can pray about regarding our local educational system, and the national system as well.
How should you pray? One thing that God tells us is to pray that His will be done on Earth. Our school district is on Earth. So who do you think cares more about all these people than God? Praying that His will be done in the Tooele County School District is a good prayer.
Pray also for wisdom and discernment. Pray for patience and kindness to be cultivated in both the children and the various workers. Pray that everyone involved realizes this is a process that needs the understanding of everyone, and a willingness to be considerate of each other.
With over 1,400 employees and over 14,000 students, there is much to pray about. Thankfully we have a big God.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.