When I was in school in the 1950s and 60s, we started every morning by reciting the Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, and depending on the homeroom teacher, a short passage from the Bible was read. Before lunch, we generally recited David's Prayer or someone prayed a short blessing. Then came atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hare, who is said to be "the woman who ended prayer in American public schools." She began her campaign to abolish any form of religion in schools in 1960. In a letter to The Baltimore Sun about that time, she wrote --"When we go to a public meeting why are we subjected to prayer, in the [power] of which we do not believe? When we handle money, why, since 1955, are we confronted with money minted with In God We Trust on it? Why should our mail be stamped 'Pray for Peace'?… Is your belief so thin that you must force it upon others?" She made so much commotion that the Supreme Court eventually heard her case, and, by a vote of 8 to 1, ruled in 1962, to ban prayer in public schools.
There were those who attempted to find ways around the new rules. Student-initiated prayers were usually permitted, or maybe at football stadiums someone in the bleachers could stand up and start saying "The Lord's Prayer" and those who wanted to could join in. I remember the day after 9-11 when I walked into the school where I was teaching, the principal said, "If I happen to lay the microphone down for a few minutes during the announcements this morning, someone might want to pick it up." The clear implication was if I wanted to lead the school in prayer, he would not be opposed. So that's exactly what I did.
Is there anyone who wonders why reports of school shootings increased in the years following the Supreme Court ruling?
Is there anyone who wonders why church attendance increased dramatically in the days and weeks following 9-11? We had been forced to do our praying in the privacy of our homes or behind the closed doors of our churches, but the immense tragedy of September 11 brought the nation to its knees. We had an undeniable, unwavering, desperate need to plead with, to intercede on behalf of others, and to hear from our Creator. We acknowledged that we were powerless, but He was/is ALL-POWERFUL.
Monday night was another such time.
A very crucial NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals was underway, and millions were watching. Bills player Damar Hamlin made a hard but normally routine tackle on a Bengals player. He got up from the ground but dropped to the ground unconscious a few seconds later. IMMEDIATELY several things happened. The officials stopped the game. Emergency medical personnel rushed to the scene and started administering CPR. And players from both teams dropped to their knees in disbelief and in earnest prayer for Damar. An ambulance came in, Damar was rushed to the hospital, and as of this writing, he is still in critical condition in intensive care. Damar Hamlin is 24 years old and in peak physical condition. We are told he suffered a cardiac arrest.
In an instant, life changed for Damar Hamlin, and perspectives shifted for all who watched. Then on Wednesday morning during a live broadcast of ESPN, sports analyst Dan Orlovsky bowed his head and prayed out loud on network television for Damar. https://nypost.com/2023/01/04/dan-orlovsky-prays-for-damar-hamlin-on-live-espn-broadcast/
It was the right thing to do. It was a powerful thing to do. Anyone who expresses disapproval will likely be criticized or ignored. Suddenly it was okay to pray once again. Somehow I don't think it took courage for Orlovsky to pray that prayer. I believe it came from the depths of his heart and was a result of a personal habit and regular time spent with God.
Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. Is it possible for prayer to be brought back into our schools? But rather than waiting on a Supreme Court decision, can we begin 2023 with a greater urgency to pray?
1 Thessalonians 5:17 -- "Pray without ceasing."
James 5:16 -- "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (King James Version) The English Standard Version says, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
P.S. As of Thursday afternoon, January 5, 2023, Damar Hamlin is awake and tests are showing no neurological impairment. This is nothing short of a miracle and the obvious result of PRAYER!!!