Pray for Schools
I had a dream, no really I did! I had a dream a few weeks ago in which I asked the head teacher at my boys’ school if I could prayer walk the school. Of course I woke up before I got an answer but my first waking thought was ‘I do NOT want to do that!’
Let me fill you in on the background: in the history of Christians from my town being involved in their local schools, the junior school where my boys go is one that has never had a JAM/JAFFA club, rarely had Christians in to assemblies and, as far as I’m aware, never had any prayer group or meeting there. The picture began to change when the head who had been on long term sick leave actually left, the school was put into Special Measures and a new executive head and team were put in place, from the local C of E secondary school. More church links were put in place, but it was not easy going. A year after my eldest joined I went to the then Interim Head Mr A and asked him how I could help. He was a Christian and someone I knew so I wasn’t too surprised when he said the thing he would like to happen (but was unable to make it happen himself) was to have parents praying for the school. I went straight home and texted some of the parents I knew and invited them to join me to pray once a month in my front room. For the rest of that year two of us prayed regularly for the whole school community; at the end of that year I applied to be a governor, Mr A left and was replaced by a permanent Federation head teacher (we had federated with a local infant school down the road). Another year later and I took on the Chair of Governors role.
Then 9 months after weekly meetings with the Federation head Ms B who isn’t, as far as I can tell, a person of faith and having continued to pray for the school regularly, I had the dream. My head and my heart were in full revolt – WHY would I ask that? Ms B would, at best, refuse; at worst she might laugh or look at me awkwardly, or share a ‘look’ with her PA and I’ve have to defend myself – oh the horror! Then I remembered that in a meeting the previous day I’d been asked by someone from our County Governor Services asked if I was stepping down as Chair, before I could open my mouth Ms B jumped in to state an emphatic NO explaining that the working relationship was too good to have me leave. I realised that actually God had gone ahead of me and that Ms B knows I only have the best of intentions for the school. So I gulped down my ‘Don’t be ridiculous’ knee-jerk reaction and decided that if I had the opportunity, I would ask Ms B.
Rather unsurprisingly, later the same day the opportunity arose. I took a deep breath before asking – having marshalled my defending arguments and to my astonishment she agreed, without missing a beat! We held one gathering soon after and are planning more for the rest of the year.
The great thing about doing schools work is that there are as many different ways to develop this idea of praying for schools as there are people doing it! You might have a dramatic story like this one or maybe there’s been a group of Christians praying in or for your school(s) since anyone can remember. Either way, here are some ways in which you can develop the idea from your own starting point:
Brand New School prayer meeting: If you’re starting from scratch like us then, once you have permission the next stage is to finalise a day and time, probably based on which room you are using in school and when it is available. For example, 4.30pm on the third Friday of each month (except where that falls in the holidays). Then you’ll want to gather others. Do you know whether there are any Christian staff members who might like to join in? Ask at your church, or other Christians from your local area if they would be interested or available. At the beginning don’t worry if not many people can come, the main thing is to get started. There’s a full meeting guide in the Do section if you want to follow this through.
Hold a Prayer Event: if you’ve been praying for a while and need some inspiration then one suggestion would be to prayer walk your local area, praying for schools as you walk. This could be done in an hour’s walk or you could make it a half day event which you could perhaps advertise in wider circles. Plan your route, decide who you will pray for: pupils, teachers, support staff, local authority, governors, chaplain, schools workers and what you will pray: ‘Your Kingdom Come’, ‘Bless this place in your name’ and then walk, and pray, keeping your eyes open! Keep a record of what you pray for.
Other Ways to Refresh: Get your youth group involved in praying for their own schools!
Have large sheets of paper and coloured pens, gather your children or young people together for some introduction to praying for their schools. Use Bible verses like:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
Pair them up to pray together by writing out different things they think need prayer in their school. You could prompt them every few minutes to remember to pray for teachers and support staff as well as their friends! We are told to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:43) so remind them to pray for those they find really hard – the school/class bully; the friend they just fell out with that week; the teacher who shouted at them for no apparent reason.
You will need: The Lord’s Prayer written out, a notebook, a pen, A4 paper and pens for the groups.
Begin by introducing yourself, say why you were keen to get this group together, then ask everyone else to tell the group who they are. It might go something like this – “Hi most of you probably know me but for those who aren’t sure I’m Joe Bloggs, the Schools Worker for Any Town Christian Schools Work Trust. Any Town County Junior School, where we are now, is the school where I started working two years ago and there hasn’t until now been an opportunity for a group to gather here to pray. I’m excited that today is when that changes. Perhaps you could just tell us who you are?”
Ask each person there to say their name and maybe which church they are from. If you have 20+ people you might want to save the intros until they are in smaller groups a bit later on!
You: We’re going to begin with the Lord’s Prayer, you’ve got a copy of this in front of you. As we say this together please circle or underline the line ‘Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be done’ Say the prayer together.
You: What we want to see in this school is that God’s Kingdom will come, on earth as it is in heaven. So let’s just take a moment to think about what that might look like and how we might pray for that today. PAUSE. Let’s divide into groups or pairs (this will depend on how many people are in the room), I’ll give you each a sheet of paper, please write these four parts of the school day on there: before school, break time, lunch time, after school. Now, who might we pray for in these different sections? Jot down some ideas then pray in your groups for the things you’ve got written down. Please remember that we need to keep confidentiality and any specific situations you’re aware of and would like to pray for need to be ‘anonymised’.
Let the groups get on with discussing and then writing things down. Remind them after 10mins so that they have enough time to actually pray.
Once they have had 20mins to pray, ask people to tell you what they have prayed for – write it down, just headlines is fine, with the date. Explain that it’s good to keep a record of what we pray for as it helps to be able to see what God has done.
Finish with a blessing prayer like ‘May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all forever more amen.’ Or another similar prayer. Thank people for coming and remind them when the next gathering is.
Jenni Osborn is the Head of FE Studies at CYM and an avid supporter of Christians working in schools.