A brief address to the student body on the subject of our daily prayer and hymn-singing, which the upper school performs first thing every morning.
How many of you have been to a wedding, a funeral, or a memorial service in the last several years?
Weddings, funerals, and memorial services are unusual events in that they bring Christians and non-Christians together inside church buildings. A great many non-Christians are willing to go to church for these kind of ceremonies just to show their love and admiration for Christian friends. When I ask students how they know certain people at a wedding or a funeral are not Christians, they are never baffled by the question. They readily say, “The non-Christians are the ones who aren’t singing the hymns or doing the responsive readings. They’re laughing or whispering to each other.”
I find this a haunting answer given how often I see students laughing and whispering to one another during morning meeting. When I was your age, I also attended a classical Christian school, and I was the kind of student given to laughing and whispering during times of public prayer. When Christians use times set aside for prayer and singing to laugh and whisper, they usually do so for the same reasons that non-Christians laugh and whisper at weddings and funerals: simply put, they do not believe that praying and singing hymns will make a difference. The student who jokes with his friends while everyone else sings “A Mighty Fortress” does not believe that singing would make his life better, his soul better, his day better. The non-Christian does not believe singing “A Mighty Fortress” will make a difference because he does not believe a God exists to delight in the song. Of course, the Christian who doesn’t sing might be in the same boat, for the Christian might believe that God exists, but that He does not care what we sing or whether we pray.
On the other hand, some students do not sing and pray during morning meeting because they are thinking of the day ahead, or something cruel which was said only minutes earlier. To be honest, it is hard to spend time in prayer because God is in heaven and our thoughts very naturally tend to the things of this earth, like what we will eat, what will we drink, and what we will wear. Of course, Christ specifically tells His followers not to worry about these things, and He tells them not to worry about these things right after He teaches them how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount. Christians have always objected to prayer on the grounds that it is impractical.
Let me confirm for you, in no uncertain terms, that saying prayers and singing hymns does make a difference, and that failing to commit your life and your day to Jesus Christ in the morning will mean that your day will not be as good as it might have been. I do not mean that prayer is a kind of lucky rabbit’s foot which makes the world bend to your will, because prayer is an act of faith, which means that God alone answers prayer, and God is concerned about things which are far more important than you having a pleasant life. Remember that when the paralytic was lowered through the roof to Christ, the first thing Christ did for the man was pronounce his sins forgiven. Christ knew what was most important. He only healed the man’s body after he had healed his soul.
If, every morning this school year, you commit yourself to several minutes of prayer and hymn-singing, you might still fail ninth grade, and you might not get into the college you hoped for, and you might break your ankle and miss the entire track season, and yet you will be suited to submit these troubles to God in exchange for something greater. In 2 Corinthians, St. Paul says, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” When light and momentary troubles come, students who have not prayed will be embittered, for their trouble will come from an apparently indifferent God who does not care whether they pray, or sing, or suffer. However, when students who have prayed suffer light and momentary trouble, they will be able to say alongside Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” for those students know God is with us in all things, for they have been with God in all things.