Pray WITH Your Students
“Mr. Black, I am really nervous about my grandfather. He has COVID-19 and is not doing well. I just wanted you to know in case I seem a little off in class.”
My guess is that all of us involved in the education ministry have had some sort of conversation like this during the past year. Whether it be a specific concern about COVID-19 within a family, fear of the virus, frustration about limitations or restrictions, or any other issues that arose for students during the past school year, it is clear that our pupils experienced significant anxieties.
If you have had a student share something with you, like the example above, how have you responded? I have often answered with “I’ll pray for you” as my standard response. When I was younger, embarrassingly, I may not have always remembered to do so. As I have aged I have become better about creating prayer lists and ensuring that I do lift the student and their concern up in prayer.
I am wondering if this approach perhaps seemed impersonal to my students. Do they wonder whether I actually follow through with prayer to our Heavenly Father on their behalf? Does this become a trite response to a personal need? Are they thinking that perhaps I only pray for them on my time — when it is convenient for me?
I believe that God led me to a significant transition this year in my care for and relationship with students. Instead of merely praying FOR students (which I continued to do) I made it a point to pray WITH students, immediately lifting their concern to our Lord WITH them. I stopped what I was doing, listened, asked questions where appropriate, and prayed WITH the student. The power of doing this together was readily apparent by the relief on the faces of students after praying together. It was also clear to other students that this was becoming a part of our classroom pattern, so this opened more opportunities to pray WITH students over their needs and concerns. What a blessing this has been!
Along the way, there were a few things I learned about praying WITH students:
- Be sure to ask permission to pray WITH them. Some may feel awkward and uncomfortable about this step. That is fine. We need to honor each student in this way.
- Similarly, ask permission from the student to follow up in future days/weeks. I often do this by sharing, “I would love to know how God is working through your situation.” I have never had a student turn down this request.
- If you are granted permission to follow up with a student, be sure to do it! Make a note. Add this to a calendar. Ensure that this happens. Help your student see that you are consistently pointing them to God in their time of need.
- Taking the time to pray WITH a student may feel like an interruption to your classroom agenda. After all, our time with students during the day is finite. Once I understood that this was my most important agenda, I was able to freely embrace these opportunities.
- Don’t forget to celebrate answered prayer with them. Thank God together for His goodness. Model gratitude for your student.
Perhaps you have already made the transition from praying FOR a student to praying WITH a student. If so, God has blessed you with the insight to embrace ministry opportunities in this way. For me, the Lord has used our COVID-19 circumstances in the classroom to improve my work in leading students to Him, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is my hope that praying WITH students is, or will be, a regular activity for you as well.