“… for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men….But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret;…” Matthew 6:5,6 (KJV)
There are news reports of a move in South Carolina by some state representatives to require prayer to be held in South Carolina public school classrooms. I don’t question the sincerity of any lawmaker who wishes that prayer was allowed in public schools. However, I do question that lawmaker’s knowledge of federal laws and theology and education.
First, the easy one: The Supreme Court, for better or worse, deemed required prayer in public schools unconstitutional. Settled.
Secondly, the verses I quote from the book of Matthew are the words of Jesus when he rebuked religious ostentation in His Sermon on the Mount. We are instructed not to make our prayers a performance for others, but a talk with His Father, a private conversation. If prayer was required in public schools, would the South Carolina government write a prayer to be used in each classroom? Would the government trust each teacher to say her own prayer? Would the prayer be required to be Christian? Could a student lead a classroom prayer? But, all these questions are already answered: any student or teacher can pray in a classroom anytime. If a student is worried about an approaching test, he can pray. Any teacher faced with an unruly student can pray to her god for guidance. Prayer, of a private and non-required kind, is allowed and practiced in classrooms all over America. Each day. Often. To require a prayer of any religion would make that type of prayer rote and trivial. Sincere prayer is private and heart-felt, not required. Honest prayer, whether of the Christian faith or some other religion, is best taught at home, where deep instruction can be given by the parents.
And last, our teachers have more than enough to do. They do not need one more interruption to the classrooms. They are teachers of math, English, history, physics, and so many other disciplines. To burden them with one more item would not help them or our children.