The Lord’s Prayer for Educators

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Our Father, Who is in Heaven–and Heaven rules! Let Your Name be hallowed, reverenced, glorified, and lifted up at our school today.  Let the words and actions of every Believer on campus, whether they are students, staff, or parents, honor Your Name and cause unbelievers  to take notice and want to know what’s different.

I pray that Your kingdom would come and Your will would be done at our school. Let every decision for every student be in accordance with Your will. May our instruction advance Your kingdom by preparing our students to fulfill the purpose You have for their lives: to be students of Your Word and stewards of Your provision.

Give us this day, our daily bread. Give us the tools, resources, knowledge, and wisdom to provide excellent instruction in the same way the the Lord Jesus, our Great Teacher, provided us with excellent instruction.

And forgive us when we fail You as we forgive those who fail us. Give us the grace we need to build meaningful relationships within our school community and provide examples of a lifestyle that is holy and acceptable to You.

For Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Malicious Intent…Miraculous Outcome

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“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Genesis 50:20

Hardships in life are a given, and the spectrum of human trials is multi-faceted.  Some struggles are universal, such as resisting a sweet tooth, while others battles are unique to our personal circumstances.  Sibling rivalry is a common family malady, but few suffer from its consequences as Joseph did.  His brothers were so determined to end their father’s favoritism they sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery where he tumbled from a favorite butler in a wealthy ruler’s home to the bottom of the dungeon.  Ultimately, Joseph was released from prison by Pharaoh himself and promoted to a regal post.

The Lord told Isaiah that He knew how the story of humankind would end before He uttered light into existence (46:10). And, more personally, He had written your biography before you were even conceived (Psalm 139:16). The Father knew the trials that Joseph would face when He gave Joseph the prophetic dreams that incited the brothers’ vindictive jealousy. Joseph was not alone in prison, “the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Genesis 39:21). Being confident in God’s sovereignty brought comfort to Joseph and made his circumstances bearable. The enemy planned for Joseph to die in solitary confinement, but the Lord planned to use Joseph’s circumstances to save the entire nation of Israel from widespread famine.

God’s eyes are on you just as His eyes were on Joseph thousands of years ago. He knew your life story before you took your first breath, and He knows your students’ stories. Our enemy has evil plans for our lives and our students’ lives. He attacks from all sides to steal our faith, kill our hope, and destroy our lives (1 Peter 5:8). But God does not change. Though the enemy intends to harm us, God intends hardships to shape us into better people and perhaps become the conduit to change our future to fit His plan. In fact, hardships are a chisel that God can use to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

This is a painful process, but our confidence in His sovereignty is what enables us to count it all joy. The Father’s foreknowledge of our triumphs and our trials is a comforting fact.  His eyes are on you just as His eyes were on Joseph thousands of years ago.  You can trust that through the struggles and pain the Lord will sculpt your life a beautiful masterpiece that bears a striking resemblance to Jesus Christ.

A Covenant Prayer for Educators

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Lord,

Thank You for Your divine design. Thank You that You have given me skills, knowledge and talent to fulfill the purpose You have placed on my life to advance Your kingdom. Thank You for the opportunity to be Your fellow worker. What a privilege to plant and water alongside the Master Gardner and receive a reward from Your hand! (1 Corinthians 3:8-9, Colossians 3:23, 2 Chronicles 15:7)

I ask for Your favor to rest on me and that You establish the work of my hands. I commit all my work to You and desire that my efforts powered by Your strength will accomplish Your purposes. I pray that You will replace my own agenda with Yours. Help me keep my attitude positive by thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. (Psalm 90:17, Proverbs 16:3, Philippians 4:8)

Father, I know the work You brought me to is too heavy to carry alone. Help me to lean into You and depend on Your yoke that You invited me to take on myself as I labor with You for Your kingdom. Thank You also for other believers You have brought together in our schools to co-labor in helping Your people. (Exodus 18:18, Matthew 11:29, Ecclesiastes 4:9, Hebrews 6:10)

Lord I ask that You give me wisdom when I encounter adversity whether the adversity is from students, parents, colleagues, administrators, political figures or legislation. Let Your wisdom show me the way to best serve each of my students and build positive relationships with all the people who are a part of my school community. Give me the grace I need as I make every effort to live in peace with everyone. (James 1:5, Hebrews 12:14)

Almighty God, I thank You that You are a just God. Thank You for demanding fairness in every business deal, even when that business is education. Thank You for setting the standard. Help me to rely on this truth and Your sovereignty when adverse circumstances are overwhelming or it seems that I have been judged unfairly or held accountable unjustly. I know that You have called me by name and that You are with me when I pass through deep waters and walk through fire. When I must pass through waters or walk through fire, help me to continue to do Your will with all my heart and to work with enthusiasm because I am working for You and not for earthly masters. (Psalm 16:11, Isaiah 43:1-2, Ephesians 6:6-7)

Father, thank You for Your promise that all hard work leads to profit. As an educator, my heart’s desire is that the children my work influences will profit! I long to see my hard work lead to students who can use the beautiful minds You have given them and ultimately be fit for service in Your kingdom fulfilling Your purpose for their lives. I desire that my hard work results in children who value relationships with others over their natural inclination to be self-serving. This is the only profit I seek from Your hand. (Proverbs 14:23)

For Your kingdom. For Your glory. In Christ Jesus’ name.

Amen

Be Salty

Sea salt wooden spoon on brown wooden background.

Recently I had the privilege of hearing Manny Scott speak in person. Manny was one of the students in the class made famous by the movie Freedom Writers, which I had never actually seen prior to hearing him speak. In spite of not seeing the Hollywood version of this teacher-hero’s class, Manny’s personal story and his charge to educators everywhere still had a powerful impact.

As he detailed his own history, tears came to my eyes many times. It is heartbreaking to hear the challenges of students in poverty. Although I have taught many students who are considered impoverished, Manny’s own struggles seemed to surpass the large majority of the students I have encountered. His words did inspire me to look past the students sitting in my classroom to see the whole child–their school life as well as their home life.

After sharing his challenges, he told the story of how his now famous teacher “studied her students like an anthropologist” and found a way to reach each of them and have an impact on their lives. He encouraged the educators in the audience to do likewise: Study your students and change your methods so that they can reach high expectations.

His conclusion was even more powerful than his story. He shared that in a recent keynote address he talked about those students that are hardest to reach, those who resist your every effort and seem to not want to let you into their lives. He referred to the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t……” He said that before he finished that familiar phrase, a cowboy in his audience jumped up to challenge that old way of thinking. Manny reported that the cowboy said it was indeed true that you could not make a horse drink once you led them to water, but you could put salt in their mouths and make them thirsty!

Christ said in His mountaintop sermon, “You are the salt of the earth,” Matthew 5:13. Being salt isn’t about adding flavor to the world, it’s about making the world thirsty. Thirsty for what? Jesus Christ, the Living Water (John 4:10, 14). Educators have the double-duty of being the salt that makes kids thirsty for learning as well as making them thirsty for the Living Water. Let’s get in those classrooms and shake it up!

A Season for the Heart

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17, NIV

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Every year, growing children struggle with the existence of Santa Claus. They begin to put together clues of Christmases past, notice tell-tale signs of costumed Santas, and they are surrounded by jaded peers that scoff at the jolly saint. These children experience a series of emotions from doubt to disappointment to cynicism. And one day, much to the chagrin of their doting parents, they refuse to sit for the annual picture with Santa, whole-heartedly denouncing his existence.

Adults who embrace the spirit of Christmas work tirelessly to maintain the persona of St. Nick. They rely on movies, songs, poetry, and even personal testimony to perpetuate the single-most recognizable icon of the American Chrismas season. Why is this so important to us? Why do we as teachers quickly discredit the sophisticated students who openly declare the fallacies of believing in Santa Claus?

There’s a sense of joy that Santa brings to the season. He gives hope to children whose parents have repeatedly denied their requests for trains and doll houses, although their denial may be part of the charade. Santa is given credit for giving the most desirable gifts, and his efforts represent the pinnacle of the Christmas season to most American children. Truly, the purpose of Christmas is not to celebrate the famous toy trek, but Santa does embody God’s generous nature as described in countless scriptures throughout His Word. But we have to stop and ask ourselves if maintaining the material facade of this legendary giver distracts us from the immaterial but much more valuable gifts that God has for us.

His gifts come in many forms, some we can unwrap under the Christmas lights but most we must seek the throughout the year. God is concerned with our material needs and blesses us with material blessings (Jeremiah 29:11), but God is more concerned with matters of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). In all our efforts to play Santa–the decorating, baking, shopping, and wrapping, and otherwise making Christmas “”happen”–we forget to make our own Christmas list. God wants to give us wisdom (James 1:7), healing and forgiveness (Psalm 103:3), peace (1 Peter 5:7), love and joy (John 15:10-11), and countless other blessings and virtues that cannot be named in this small blog post! He wants you to ask so that you can receive (Matthew 7:7). What will be on your heart’s Christmas list this year?

Lord of the Lost Things

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7, NLT

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One winter, my daughters earned Fiesta Texas tickets through a reading incentive at school. This annual incentive had become a treat my family looked forward to each summer. They would ask at least two or three times a day—all summer long—when we were going to make our trip to the amusement park. I put it off as long as possible because trekking through throngs of people to wait in line for half an hour isn’t my favorite summer activity. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our kids!

Knowing that the expiration date was fast approaching, we finally set a date. The day before the much-anticipated trip I uncovered my school bag, which I hadn’t touched since the last day of school. I found only one of the girls’ tickets. Katy, my youngest, immediately began worrying that we would cancel our annual foray into mechanized amusement. I continued searching frantically through every page, folder and book I brought home from school. There were many as I had good intentions of spending my summer vacation doing lesson plans weeks in advance. Ha!

Her sister Zoe’s ticket was nowhere to be found; it was lost. I tried to retrace my steps of those last weary days in May. Had I left it in my desk? Was it in the drawer in my closet? Maybe I had tucked it “safely” into a notepad that I took to a workshop? I had no idea and I knew my kids would be disappointed if we didn’t make that trip. So, I did what I always do when I’m at my wit’s end. I prayed. Yes—I prayed for a lost ticket to an amusement park. On the other side of the planet wars raged. Hospitals were full of people who were praying for healing. I prayed for the location a tiny, relatively inconsequential slip of paper. Surely the God of the universe had more pressing matters that demanded His attention. Still, I prayed.

Within minutes of that prayer, God reminded me that Zoe had brought her ticket home from school, and I had carefully put it in that safe place we all have. The one we forget because it’s so safe. But the Lord didn’t forget. He saw that slip of paper that would afford my kids a day of pleasure, and He showed me where it was. And I was thankful.

Regretfully, I lose a lot of things. I misplace stacks of spelling tests. I can’t find my sunglasses on my way out to recess. Every once in a while I lose important things like my keys or my gradebook. *Gasp!* Sometimes I lose things that aren’t things at all, like my temper or my sense of humor. But God sees it all. In fact, Hagar gave him the name El Roi, the God who sees me (Gen 16:13). Not only does He see the things we lose, but He sees the anxiety and frustration that the loss creates, and He cares for us. He cares about the big things like our job, our students, our marriage, and our children. But He cares also about the little things.

He cares so much that He tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast ALL of our cares on Him. That little word ALL makes a big difference. And there’s an –s on the end of care, so He doesn’t want us to hang on to any of them. Praying for the lost things in our lives—lost keys, lost opportunities, lost relationships—should be the first thing we do. Not what we do when we’ve lost hope. He cares so much about us, He doesn’t even want us to feel anxious. One of my favorite nicknames for the Father is Lord of the Lost Things. He’s had His eye on the sparrow a long time, so I know He watches me and all the things in my life—whether I lose them or not.

Hi ho! Hi ho! It’s off to Work We Go!

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Education is not unique in that those in the profession feel “called” to their field. Other professionals—doctors, lawyers, police officers, social workers—find fulfillment in helping others. Many, like educators, also feel that their workplace is a mission field of sorts. While no tent revivals take place in classrooms, clinics or courtrooms, we who profess the name of Christ strive to share Christ’s love with the people we serve. This is how we advance the Kingdom of God here on earth, and it fulfills God’s unique call on each of our lives.

There is immeasurable value in this outward expression of our love for Christ, but our work is more than that. Regardless of our clientele or our surroundings, our service is only half of the equation. We miss what God has for us if we think that this outward expression is an end in itself. Our service to others is a means to an end—a path to a greater destination. Our work is part of an upward expression of our love for Christ. It is a way to worship our Creator.

When God created man, He gave him two directives: be fruitful and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:5, 15). Man’s original calling and purpose was to work. Before sin entered the world, before paychecks and benefits, God intended for us to work. This work was not simply a way to keep the new creation under control but a way to express our love for God and to follow in His footsteps. The first events recorded in the Bible are of God working! Work is what we do because it is what our Father does. He made His astounding creation, fashioned us in His image, and then put that creation under man’s authority. Our work is worship when we imitate our creative Father.

King David, diligent student of the Word of God, charged Solomon at his coronation to “acknowledge the God of your father, serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Solomon was not a priest. He did not spend his days praying in the temple, offering sacrifices, or singing with the temple chorus. Yet David told him to work with his whole heart and mind; this is part of the seeking and the finding. Our work is worship when we are serving God with whole-hearted devotion.

In many of his letters, Paul exhorted us to work “with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:17). His words echo in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ephesians 6:7, and Philippians 2:12-16. He explains to the Christians in Rome that we must, as our spiritual act of worship offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). What does a sacrifice that’s alive do with his or her body? Follow God’s example and get to work. Our work is worship when we work for the Lord and not men.

Maybe that’s what Jesus had in mind when He spoke with the Samaritan woman while she was working. He told her that the Father was seeking a specific kind of worshipper—one who worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4). Our spirit goes everywhere with us—to church on Sunday and to work on Monday. The Holy Spirit is ever-present, even as we spend the vast majority of our waking life at work. If we are to worship in spirit and in truth, then we must see our work as an upward expression of our love for God, serving Him with whole-hearted devotion and with a willing mind. If we worship God through our work, then when we seek Him, even in our workplace, we will find Him.