“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.” Proverbs 16:20 NIV
When I turn my calendar over to August, I still get a little rush of excitement that something ‘new’ is starting. I feel profoundly compelled to buy a binder, notebook paper and a pack of pens even though I don’t really need any of those supplies, and my schedule won’t change between summer and fall. It’s only my second year after finishing my formal education, so the rhythm of ‘back to school’ hasn’t quite worn off yet.
However, for millions of teachers and families across the country, ‘back to school’ season is in full swing, with all the feelings that come with it —the anticipation of engaging with new faces, deciding on classroom necessities, and worries about what obstacles lie ahead.
“No matter where a teacher is, we all have the same hopes and desires to see our students learn, grow and succeed,” says Heather Kohnen, a veteran teacher and now full-time missionary with Christian Educators Association International. Kohnen spent two decades teaching in public schools, and recently felt God call her to use her testimonies and wisdom to encourage fellow teachers who are walking through the same joys and challenges she experienced during her career.
“God calls us to do hard things; not alone, but with Him,” Kohnen says. “Educators are also prime targets for the enemy, because we are strategic.”
For Christian educators, thoughts like ‘I don’t make an eternal difference’ and ‘God doesn’t hear me when I call to Him” are easily whispered into their hearts, and any teacher can start to believe things like ‘I’m really not effective’ or ‘my students don’t seem to like me’, leading them to feel frustrated and hopeless.
When the enemy can get a teacher feeling consistently frustrated and hopeless, there is an open door to discourage and demoralize them and their students. We must pray that Christian teachers boldly embrace the truths of Scripture, that God established them in their profession and has created them for the tasks at hand. Praying for teachers who aren’t yet believers is extremely important as well. We can pray they would find their purpose in Christ, who created and called them to steward the minds and hearts of young people.
A teacher walking in truth means that the potential of a workday peppered with frustration, anger and hopelessness can be replaced with one of consistent peace, hope and love, which overflows onto students. Teachers who believe God’s truth about themselves will naturally move into embracing God’s view of their students.
“Students are not random acts of chaos,” says Kohnen. “They are created in the image of God and marred by sin, adorned with unique personalities, and emotional, spiritual, and social interests.”
Of course, students bring every piece of themselves to school—hopes, dreams, expectations, disappointments, and pains. When a student walks through the classroom door, a teacher has no idea what they are experiencing at home. Are their parents sending them off to school with homemade lunches and hugs each morning? Is the student having to get themselves and younger siblings ready and off to school since both parents are already working? Are they being harmed at home, physically or emotionally? Has the student had anyone say ‘I love you’ to them in the past week?
“Over 50 million students in our nation attend public school, and a majority of them may never walk through the doors of a church,” says Kohnen. “How many kids in our country have never been prayed for?”
One of my most profound memories of school is my 7th grade public-school math teacher. On the first day of school, she shared that she prayed over everyone on her new roster, by name. She explained that she is a Christian, so in her religion, asking God to bless someone is the highest form of love.
Then she promptly moved on to the syllabus, explaining that by the end of the semester we would be proficient in algebra.
Ten years later, I barely remember her algebra lessons. But I remember that from day one, I felt loved in her class. I felt safe to fail, to try, to ask questions and receive grace. I also met one of my best friends in that math class. We had no idea that a decade later, she would be in my wedding and a cherished prayer partner, even when we live on different sides of the country. I really like to think that the roots of our friendship were planted in that teacher’s prayers, and that so many others were blessed by her prayers.
We need to be the prayer reinforcements for the teachers who are praying—their prayers are effective and strategic, as they call out the name of each student before the throne of God. They can pray specifically into difficult and even horrific situations that students share with them, and alter the classroom experience for their students.
The teacher is only one part of the classroom equation; the daily environment of a class can be profoundly affected by the actions and attitudes that students display.
“One of the biggest issues today is that young people aren’t motivated; often this is because they see no hope, and they are surrounded by people who are constantly speaking negatively,” says Kohnen. “We have to be aware of the next generation and speak HOPE to them instead of despair. This goes for teachers, youth leaders, parents, grandparents—anyone who is around young people.”
Let’s start off this month of praying for education by praying for our educators!
Prayer: Lord, You are the God of all knowledge and hope. Thank You for establishing education, that young people are trained up in knowledge to mature in wisdom and fulfill the good works You have prepared them to do. We pray that educators would be filled with hope this school year, and be strengthened in truth to walk boldly in their calling. Lord, may Christian educators be beacons of the light of the Holy Spirit to their fellow teachers, to administrators and to every student they interact with this school year. Put the words in their hearts to speak abundant life and the hope of the Gospel over their school. We pray for educators who do not yet know You as Savior, that they would see the greatest knowledge is knowing You. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Find this prayer at the National Day of Prayer website: https://www.nationaldayofprayer.org/praying_for_our_educators