With most of the student population back in school, it's likely that students, teachers, and parents are all hoping for a productive school year. One of the things that can hold people back from making the most of their time in school – or their work as teachers – is fear of failure.
One middle school dean made a plea that all pupils in the classroom become risk-takers. She asked that teachers encourage the students to raise their hands to answer questions and not to be afraid of what their classmates might think. That request brings to mind this Bible verse: "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7).
In praying for our own children or for schools in general, this verse from the Bible is a good foundation. Divine Love, or God, definitely can overcome fear, and each of us, young or old, can feel Love's presence in our lives. Putting our hand in Love's hand causes fear to disappear and enables us to find the power, love, and sound mind that God has already given us.
This conviction of God as the source of intelligence and strength, of wisdom and good judgment, does much to wipe out timidity and fear in the classroom. Of course teachers have a responsibility and ability to encourage confidence, and people who are concerned about good educational practices can support those teachers through their prayers.
Another condition that can lead to reticence and discouragement among students is the feeling that one is less intelligent than others. Those feelings can be alleviated by understanding that intelligence is God-given and not necessarily measurable by intelligence testing. This concept was at first disturbing and later helpful news to one woman, who as a child had been tested and found to have a high I.Q. She felt that much was expected of her, and she did make high grades in school. But she knew that she often made bad decisions and didn't have nearly the good judgment of her sister, who was identified as having a lower I.Q.
At a very low point in her life, she was given a copy of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. There she found this interesting question and answer: "Question. What is intelligence? Answer. Intelligence is omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. It is the primal and eternal quality of infinite Mind, of the triune Principle, – Life, Truth, and Love, – named God" (p. 469).
"So that is what intelligence is!" she exclaimed. "It's not merely a human faculty. It belongs to God."
This helped her understand that she didn't need to feel either proud or confused by what had been measured as her I.Q. Today, while realizing that the old custom of intelligence testing is no longer widely used, she loves affirming in prayer that all children – and adults, too – have God-given intelligence that can't be measured or limited. It needs only to be claimed and exercised.
When we approach intelligence in this way, we see that it's unlimited and infinite. Then there's no need to feel afraid of being stupid or left behind because of lack of intelligence. This quality of thought is already ours as the sons and daughters of God. But intelligence alone is not enough. Even really bright people can make terrible decisions. So to complete our prayers, we can pray with conviction for our young people and teachers to have wisdom. This also has its source in God.
The book of James in the Bible explains it so well: "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (3:17). This wisdom that is "easy to be entreated" is truly God-given and available to every student.
This new school year offers the promise of a fresh beginning and new opportunities to express intelligence, love, and wisdom. While our prayers don't outline course material and procedures, they can support the progress of all students, teachers, and schools to reach new heights under God's loving care.