On National Day of Prayer, Dean of Education Discusses Praying Without Ceasing

Shedding Light on Practice of Prayer in the Public Workplace

May. 5, 2011 By Jenna Bartlo

It took becoming a teacher — a job requiring much patience amidst pressure — for dean of Biola’s School of Education, June Hetzel, to realize the full meaning of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which says to “pray without ceasing.” In the following article, originally published in Teachers of Vision magazine, Hetzel describes personal prayer practices that anyone can incorporate into their daily life, and tips on praying for students, which can be easily translated to the common workplace as well.

Prayer in the Public School: Building God’s Kingdom

Written by June Hetzel, Ph.D., Dean of Education, Biola University

You cannot show people a picture of God unless you are first spiritually transformed yourself. The one and only place of spiritual transformation is in your heart. This ongoing work of transformation occurs as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life as you relinquish yourself to Him. The critical role of prayer is foundational to the transformational process of the heart and critical to the role of your being an influence for Christ on your campus.

I Thessalonians 5:17 says to “pray without ceasing.” I never knew what this verse meant until I became a teacher. The pressure is immense – not only in the classroom but outside the classroom and across your campus. It is within the context of this crucible that one is shaped and transformed, either to be more like the world or to be more like Christ (Col. 3). The busyness and pressure of the demands of the profession often squeeze out the priority of prayer within our spirit. We instead begin to do our work in our own power, rather than in the power and grace of the work of the Holy Spirit as we, through prayer, “cast all our cares upon Him” (I Peter 5:7).

Personal Prayer Practices

Three personal practices will assist you in maintaining a posture of prayer in your inner spirit as you serve in the public school classroom. However, some of these practices must be maintained outside the classroom to keep attuned to the Spirit’s work in your life.

Silence: Silence is fasting from speaking in order to hear God more clearly (Coe, 2009). Silence is sitting before God, still and quiet, waiting and listening. Silence provides the setting for you to hear the Holy Spirit speak to you in the quietness of your heart. The frenetic pace of the classroom can dull our ability to spiritually hear. Times of silence must be scheduled into your life in the morning, evening, or weekend in order to hear the voice of God.

Solitude: Solitude is fasting from fellowship in order to hear God more clearly (Coe, 2009). Solitude is spending time alone for refreshment, renewal, and time in the presence of God. Periodic retreats from your public servant role must be made a priority in your calendar. Schedule time alone and schedule time in retreat. Solitude is a necessary discipline to stay spiritually centered, and it is a practice modeled by Jesus (e.g., Luke 9:28). “We retreat into solitude in order to serve God and neighbor better, for it is only when we learn to be alone that we can enter into real community with others,” (Chan, 1998, p. 121).

Individual Prayer: Prayer is communion with God. Practice communing with God in your spirit each day in the classroom. Whisper prayers within your spirit throughout the school day, asking God for wisdom and intervention in challenging situations, assistance with student learning, academic breakthroughs, and most importantly — spiritual awakening. And, listen for the Spirit to speak to you throughout the day. The work of the classroom teacher is far too important, demanding, and complex to accomplish the work in the flesh; rather, the work of the classroom teacher must be accomplished in the power of the Spirit.

Praying for Your Students

Create a rhythm of prayer practices as you structure ways to pray for your students at school, home, and church.

Parent Conferences: As needs arise in parent conferencesat school and when parents indicate that they have faith in God, ask the parents if they would be willing to let you pray aloud for their child.

Students’ Homes: While visiting students’ homes, let families know that you are praying for them. With parental permission, pray aloud for the family. Throughout your visits, whisper prayers within your spirit, asking the Spirit for wisdom as you minister to hurting families.

Home and Travel: While at home and traveling, pray for students by name. Place prayer reminders on the refrigerator, on the mirror, or in your car. Pray during your commute time.

Church: In your church community, elevate your school ministry to that of missions work. Organize focused prayer groups to hold up your school and district in prayer. Organize service projects for your school with Christian volunteers. Bathe every event in prayer (e.g., athletic events, academic events), every need (e.g., fiscal resources), and most importantly – people (e.g., students, parents, administration, staff).

Corporate Prayer

Bring together the community on or off campus for corporate prayer. For example, pray before or after work hours with a unified heart for God’s work and purposes on your campus. Initiate cross-subject or grade level prayer meetings, teacher or administrator prayer breakfasts, and/or parent prayer groups. Corporate prayer can also occur on campus by agreement:

Noon Prayer: Practice Noon Prayer by agreeing with colleagues that you will individually stop to pray for the school at noon or the start of lunch time.

Bell Prayer: Agree with colleagues that each time you hear the bell ring, you will whisper a prayer for God’s blessing and protection upon the school and district.

Hourly Prayer: Agree with colleagues that each time the clock strikes the hour, you will whisper a prayer for God’s wisdom to be upon your leaders.

Henri Nouwen, a man always on the go, much like a teacher, “learned by experience what he had theoretically learned from Merton [his mentor]: Prayer lies in listening to the ‘still small voice of God.’ In order to listen, he had to be still and silent” (Waldron, 2009, p. 197) within his spirit. Hence, even as students and colleagues clamor for our attention, the strength of Kingdom work lies, not in working in our own flesh, but in working in the power of the Spirit as we relinquish our hearts to His through prayer (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).

This article was published in Teachers of Vision, Spring 2010, Vol. LV, No. 4, a publication of the Christian Educators Association International.

Introduction written by Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coordinator. Jenna can be reached at (562) 777-4061 or through email at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.


  • Mike Brady Jun. 20, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    Excellent article with its reminders to be a person of prayer. Very helpful in our work no matter what our vocation. Thanks!

  • LeRoy Aug. 23, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    By "chance" my 6th grade homeroom teacher was a substitute. By definite choice, Mrs. Ashworth practiced prayer in the public school classroom. (After a particularly stressing day, she mentioned it to us!) I mention this because I was not a Christian, not from a church-going home, and yet her influence stuck with me. Some things she said, and "something about her" (and a couple other teachers - in Kindergarten and 4th grade) awakened my spirit to higher things, deeper thoughts. She was responsible for my picking up a free Bible (elsewhere) and reading Revelation. This later lead me to pick up and read a Gideon's NT at a crisis time in my life. Which led to my salvation in college. It might well be said that if it were not for the practice of prayer of that godly disciplinarian (smiling all the while) in 6th grade, you would be one student short in your incoming class (and I would not be on earth about it). Great word on prayer, Jenna.

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