Let Us Pray

It is often said that Episcopal schools are praying places. Each of us can point to the unique ways that our school prays together. It might be the short prayer that the youngest students learn as soon as they arrive at the school. Perhaps it is grace before a meal, or a particular way that we open or close worship. It may be the way that students write and read prayers for chapel, the way that trustee meetings are opened with prayer, or the way that birthdays are honored and blessed.

And then there are the informal, individual “prayers” that each of us offers up almost without any thought at all, both inside and outside of school: the student who invokes the Lord’s help before a big test; the parent who prays for patience when confronted with a toddler’s tantrum; or the teacher (or school head!) who “prays” that the faculty meeting might end soon.

We tend to make light of these off-the-cuff, casually stated and often only-half-serious prayers. But the fact that we utter them at all speaks to our need to feel God’s presence in all areas of our life, not only when we are in church or chapel.

In Celtic Christianity, simple, everyday tasks were seen as an opportunity for prayer and thanksgiving, from the lighting of the hearth to the making of meals and the closing of the day. The beauty and simplicity of Celtic prayers acknowledge God’s presence in all creation and in every moment of our lives.

Daily devotions and the dividing of the day into designated times for prayer and reflection have been a vital part of Christian prayer and that of other religions for centuries, as has taking time for individual mediation and reflection. The popularity of Centering Prayer, prayer websites, and the creation of daily devotional prayer apps for the iPhone speak volumes about how these practices feed our souls.

Chaplains in particular know how important and powerful private, personal prayer can be, particularly in times of grief and hardship but also in moments of great joy and celebration.

If this is the case, then how can Episcopal schools use prayer in its fullest expression to deepen the spiritual journies of students, faculty, and parents, and to help them develop more fully their inner lives, both inside and outside of chapel? How does this happen at your school?