Prayer Where?

I’ve had some downtime from writing. Blips in my personal life interfered with my creative endeavors. It’s been hard to put the words on the page. During this time I’ve scrolled and read many posts about needing to put God back in schools. This old person has other ideas. You might not agree but different opinions posed constructively lead us to examine our beliefs if we keep an open mind. And on some occasions great conversation.

I don’t remember prayer being in my public school when I attended classes in the 60s. Yes, the Pledge of Allegiance was said when appropriate, and there were religious songs sung and played at concerts. Christmas programs were Christmas programs, not religious programs but church songs were not excluded. I have no idea what all the complaining is when it comes to God in our public schools, except it’s a great mem on Facebook and other Social Media platforms that get our ire up. We pass it along without actually thinking it through.

What I do remember is prayer at mealtime in our home when the family would sit down together. The same happened in my friend’s homes. I remember attending church every Sunday because our parents made us and they went too. I remember religion classes on Saturday and Wednesday nights. I remember prayer at bedtime with my parents. i remember my Grandmother sitting in her wheelchair by the window with her rosary in her hand praying every day. I remember my Aunt Mary with her Bible on her lap in prayer after supper. I remember holidays where our schedule was built around the church. There was no choice between attending school activities or church activities. School activities lost every time if there was a conflict.

The same happened when my kids were growing up. No matter what activities they were in we always sat down for a meal together almost every night. It might not always have been at the same time but we found some time. Church activities came first and so did church on Sunday plus Sunday School and confirmation Wednesday nights and Saturdays. I remember when my daughter was in high school and we had tickets to the Broadway show Phantom of the Opera and it coincided with a confirmation trip. Yup, she went on the confirmation trip, and guess what, she survived missing the musical. Were my kids ever upset with us because of the choices we made when it came to church activities…all the time, yet they’re still speaking to us.

Parents are blaming schools for the lack of God in the school but perhaps they need to take responsibility for the choices that are being made for the lives of their families also. Churches have changed the way they teach because Sunday School, Confirmation, and prayer aren’t a priority in families lives anymore. It takes a backseat to whatever fun activity is happening in the community. Thirty minutes a week is not much for churches to teach kids about the role of God in their life. The churches have caved to societies worldly pressures.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I hear you when you complain that you don’t have a choice because all these activities in schools are planned for nights and weekends that used to be reserved for church. You ask, “What is a parent to do?” Parents don’t want their kids to be left out of the game or miss good times with their friends. They don’t want their kids penalized because they made them take part in church activities instead of practices or games. Parents want their kids to be well-rounded with activities that will take them into the future. They don’t want them bored and the church is occasionally boring. Somehow I think learning about God has been taken out of the phrase well-rounded.

School boards are under fire because people are protesting mask mandates and vaccine mandates. Does that say where priorities are? I haven’t heard any protests of parents being upset because of all the activities that take away from their kids learning about God in their homes and their churches. Yet the complaints of God not being in school are all over social media but it doesn’t seem to translate to the source of the problem. I would say that is a choice that has been made by families all over the United States. It’s time to own it and quit blaming schools for taking God out of the schools. We did it to ourselves when we let schools take our church time or made the choice to prioritize fun time over church time. We did it to ourselves when we quit praying as a family at mealtime or at bedtime or when we quit having faith conversations with our kids.

You might think I/m passing the buck but I’m not. I have to own my own mistakes. I’m a believer in prayer. I pray, sometimes it’s conversation but it’s a prayer. I’ve lost my desire to attend church the past year, not the church’s fault, but my own quest for examining what I believe and somewhat laziness, but I will go back. I didn’t quit praying. It was ingrained in me by my parents, by my relatives, and by my different churches. I can’t imagine a life without prayer. Prayer has saved me many times when I haven’t had anywhere else to turn.

Covid has left me finding so many online resources for my faith. We all struggle and have our ups and downs and my family is no different. I have fallen back as a parent encouraging my adult children and my grandchildren in faith and I see the results. Recently my eyes were opened when a family member told me they didn’t pray. That is a concept I totally didn’t understand. My heart dropped when I heard it. That brought me back to the kind of role model I’ve been the last few years. I may not have been in church but I didn’t leave God or prayer, but we didn’t talk about it. I haven’t had those conversations with the people I love. The role of a parent in teaching our families about God doesn’t end when they turn 18.

I also admit I was shocked a few years ago when directing a Christmas Program in church and a couple of the children that only came to be in the Christmas Program had never heard the story of the birth of Jesus. Recently, a friend told me of another young person who had never heard of the creation story or the Garden of Eden. Somewhere there is a disconnect and I have to feel it starts with us as Grandparents and parents and yes churches.

As for churches, it’s not a competition or it shouldn’t be. I never wanted my kids to learn about God in school. I felt it wasn’t the schools or the teachers’ responsibilities. It was ours as parents. I also believe it’s time for churches to teach and set the bar higher for expectations for the kids. Stop being afraid people will leave or people will get mad and do what churches are supposed to do. Be a respite for the weary, Kids are weary too. Take care of the ones that are there, and help them know what they believe and why they believe it, so they can go forward and take that knowledge to teach the next generation. Prayer will be with us for a lifetime. History has shown us prayer has kept people alive and given them hope in the most dire conditions. Don’t we want that for our children?

The next time you pass along the mem of putting prayer back in schools, examine what that means and if it was ever there. Maybe change it to “Put Prayer Back In The Home.”

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