(Out of respect for the privacy of my students, I have changed the names, after all the internet is a big open space and they are but children)
As a volunteer teacher in a small pre and primary Christian school in Zambia, I have a habit of starting off each school day with group prayer with the students of my little class.
It is a simple procedure. We sit around the table and pray for the school day, asking God to bless us, help us learn, and (most important of all) help us to be obedient. As the teacher it was of course my job to lead them all in prayer. We never started a day with this very important minute with God, and if there was a rare day that it slipped my mind, I always had a little hand raising to remind me.
With time the prayer time began extending a bit. It started when one of the students got very sick and I offered that we pray for her healing. One of my other students is deaf in one ear so we decided to pray for him as well. Then it became unfair that two of the kids were getting prayer and the rest weren’t, so I would be sure to include a line about each and every one, (there are only six), asking Jesus to keep them healthy and happy.
When it became clear that prayer could be about anyone and anything, other requests began pouring in. Jack’s cat was having kittens and we prayed for them, Albert felt his dog was lonely so we were sure to slip a in a line for the canine. We also added a prayer for the children around the world to have enough to eat. and be safe.
Thus prayer time turned into a five-minute procedure, but my little 1st graders did not stir or fidget, they listened very closely to make sure their teacher didn’t dare skip any of the very important requests we were laying before the throne of God.
One morning, only about a week before Christmas break, Martha looked over at me and asked, “Miss Lada, may I pray today?”
It was the first time anyone had asked to be allowed to take over something that had always been considered Miss Lada’s task, and the little eyes of the rest of the children stared curiously at me, wondering what the answer would be.
I, in turn, gazed into the beautiful brown eyes of the five-year old. She is from Congo, French is her native language, she only speaks English at school.
“Of course Martha,” I told her. “I will be very happy if you lead us in prayer.”
We all folded our hands, and the children closed their eyes, but I dared to keep one eye open, interested to see what would happen.
Taking a deep breath, Martha began. “Dear Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus,” she said in the same way she has heard her teacher say for the past two months. Word by word she asks God to bless the day, asks Him to help them be good, to keep them safe while outside. She prays for Crystal, who is still in the hospital, she prays for the ear that can’t hear. She names all her classmates, asking God to keep them healthy. The cat and the kittens are blessed, the dog is not forgotten, the wellbeing and health of children around the world is remembered. Of course she used her own words, but she didn’t leave out a single request.
When we all said Amen, six pairs of eyes blinked at me.
“Miss Lada,” they begged. “Can we all take turns praying.”
And thus we fell into the routine. Now it’s not Miss Lada who says the prayers, rather it is the children themselves, filled with that pure faith we adults can often only dream about, who bring the list of petitions to their great Heavenly Father, and His Son, the Lord Jesus.
I am a teacher. I wake up early in the morning and spend the day trying to help my little flock learn something. I teach reading and writing, I teach arithmetic and science. The wonders of the world, the joy of art, I pour this into my students, hoping to pass on the knowledge I have to them.
Yet there had been a lesson that I never prepared for, a lesson that never had a plan, a lesson I didn’t even realize I was teaching, but now I know it has been the greatest achievement, the greatest accomplishment that will outshine any scholastic subject I could have ever given them.
Once upon a time, the disciples of Jesus came to Him with a simple question, but one that held in it the very heart of our faith. “Teach us to Pray. Teach us to communicate with You, with your Heavenly Father.”
Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. He helped them to find the words with which to come to His Father’s throne.
And in a little school in the heart of Africa, He managed to use a young, inexperienced school teacher, who often struggles to hold the attention of a mere six students, and taught His younger disciples how to pray.
And no matter what they learn,or do not learn during their time with me, I hope this will be a lesson they will keep with them for the rest of their lives.
(picture courtesy of pixabay.com)