Every fall there is a movement that tries to get as many Christian students as possible to come to school early and pray. As a student, I remember earnestly showing up and walking towards the flag where a handful of others had assembled. We stood around the flag pole and prayed for a few minutes, and then went our separate ways to class.
It felt weird. Not because I was ashamed of my faith or because prayer made me uncomfortable. It felt like beneath the good of praying for our school, the point was to gather publicly so we would be seen praying. It felt like it was less about what God can do in our hearts and our schools when we pray and more like a way to show non-believers that we aren’t ashamed of our faith.
I’m sure many who choose to participate in See You At The Pole do not have the same feelings or experience of weirdness that I did. I hope they didn’t. I hope they encountered God in a meaningful way. Because my goal here isn’t to discourage the teenagers who prayed this morning. Instead I’m attempting to ask youth pastors, parents, and other church leaders to consider what they are teaching students about prayer, faith, and how to live it out in a real way.
Jesus taught that prayer or doing anything good for the sake of being seen or for the show of it isn’t helpful. Our faith ought to be one lived out in humility and grace without making effort to be noticed.
I wonder what would happen if instead of seeing one another at the flag pole, our knees saw the floor of our bedroom instead. I realize it’s not necessarily an either/or situation, but it seems like we love to post pictures from our church’s youth ministry Instagram of “so many students” gathering to pray that we may have lost sight of what prayer should be about.
I hope our faith is strong enough not to need to be seen by anyone. I hope our prayer is fervent and deep without needing to be public. And I hope our faith is attractive because of our love for one another when no one else is watching.