Dear Middle-School-Aged Parishioner,
I’m sending you this brief note to give you my opinion on “prayer in school,” as you asked on Sunday.
You know that I value prayer. I also value religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
I’m not an expert on law, but it is my understanding that prayer has not been banned from public schools. What is forbidden in schools is organized prayer, led, sponsored, encouraged or prescribed by the school (and/or teachers and staff in school).
You and I, as students in any school in America, are free to pray and read religious texts, as long as we do not disturb other students. We are free to do so before, during and after school hours. At least, that’s how I understand the law today.
Since Jesus did virtually all of his praying in private, and he encouraged others to do the same, I see no conflict between the existing laws and the practice of my/your faith.
I actually believe that there is no way to legislate or regulate prayer out of the schools or anywhere else. Life is prayer. God hears the prayer of my life and yours without our even being aware of it or our uttering a single word.
Yes, we often verbalize our thoughts to God in prayer – even, sometimes, making the mistake of treating God like Santa Claus: “God please do this, or give me that, or don’t allow that other thing.” But God sorts through our words and conscious thoughts and hears the prayer of our heart and life.
It is unfortunate that prayer is an issue at school—especially when someone’s position on “prayer in school” is used as a litmus test for “proving” if you are a good Christian, or not. Hogwash.
Yes, I pray and I encourage everyone to pray. Prayer is not a magic formula but a connection that we open between ourselves and God. Our life’s conversation with God is what our best life is all about.
Thanks for asking me the question. I am sure you have studied and struggled effectively, formulating your own opinion in the matter.
See you in church,
Rev. Pat Conley