Yesterday, students across America and around the world participated in See You At The Pole, the annual gathering where students (parents and teachers) surround the flag pole to pray for their school, the school year, other students, and other concerns. It is held close to the start of the school year as to start the year off on the right foot. Events can include Bible reading and singing of hymns and songs, so long as the entire event is student led. And generally, the event is a positive, uplifting event for those involved that helps to remind them to pray for their school and for how to be in God's service throughout the school year.
The question today, though, is now what?
Will See You At The Pole be a one time blip in the school year, now matter how positive the experience, how high the mountaintop? Or will it have a lasting impact? Will there be something that is carried forward throughout the year in the lives of the students and others involved?
And the biggest message that I would like to promote is that it does not have to end. See You At The Pole could happen every day at our schools. Students could gather every single day and pray for the day ahead.
Despite what far too many people believe, all prayer in school is not outlawed. Student led, student initiated, genuine student prayer is and has always been permissible in the school system (Tinker v Des Moines Independent Community School, 1969). The 1995 Clinton Administration guidelines provide for school religious activities as long as they pass constitutional guidelines and even the ACLU approves of student-led prayer like SYATP before and after school so long as the school neither encourages or discourages participation.
Now, there may be consequences if a student starts praying out loud while the teacher is trying to teach, but that is more of an issue of appropriateness that even Jesus addressed. "When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:5-6. Jesus in this passage is dealing with the motive for prayer, and one would have to question the motive of a student praying outloud, interrupting the lesson. For that, there should be consequences.
The school prayer that is not condoned is the kind where participation is mandatory. Where everyone has to listen. Where a teacher prays aloud over a class or where a principal or someone else prays aloud over the loud-speaker for the entire school to hear. That has always been problematic and should not have been condoned.
There is nothing to stop this from happening today but our own inaction.
Let's hit a little closer to home. What would my office look like if I stayed and prayed over it? What would your business look like if you got there and prayed over it every day? If all the Christians in the office/business/etc started the day with a joint prayer? This doesn't have to be the kind of thing that only happens with a church staff or "Christian" organization.
So to those students and faculty who participated in See You At The Pole, keep it up. Don't be discouraged, don't let this fade. Keep praying, keep living the life you have been called to. Find a group of fellow believers and keep it up.
Even if you're the only one, keep praying. Keep showing up to meet God and pray.
After all, beyond all the publicity and notoriety the event has, that is what it is truly all about.
To meet God where we are and talk to and hear from Him.