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Viewpoint: The Presence of Prayer

By Dennis Edwards

Editorial Columnist

New Journal and Guide

Ever wonder what’s at the heart of the differences between older generations and their current offspring? I do, a lot.

Sometimes I am amazed that teenaged boys and girls can sit at the same table texting an entire conversation and never speaking a word to each other. The absence of verbal skills amazes me. They like to call it multi-tasking. But to me it’s like texting while driving, inherently dangerous now and potentially fatal later.

Maybe that’s the best way to describe a problem of a color different. This one has to do with shades of behavior governed by the absence of an essential controlling presence. In life I think we underestimate our daily relationship with the God of our choice. There are nuances related to understanding that we live our lives “sub specie aeternitatis” under the very light of eternity.

That means we are never really alone and our behavior is always in the presence of the eternal. What we do, what we say, to whom we say it and how are always in the presence of Divinity. Now whether we believe in “God” or not isn’t the issue. Even the Atheist has a governing presence.

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The problem is what happens when we don’t invite that presence, God for some, self for others into the classroom where we learn the essentials of life? I think it’s safe to say chaos often results. Where there is no clear standard of behavior across socioeconomic classifications the result will be disarray.

The most important lesson I ever learned was in kindergarden, on the first day of class. I won’t tell you what year that was. I just don’t want to deal with what that would mean. But on that day Annie Jordan Willis at Jordan’s kindergarten in Suffolk said clearly “CLASS PAY ATTENTION”. Because of her I’ve been doing that everyday of my life for a lifetime. Her demand has caused me to see what I wouldn’t have seen, felt what I wouldn’t have noticed and on more than one occasion it’s actually saved my life and the lives of my loved ones and co workers. Paying attention has allowed me and many others to live life fully in the moment, to pick up nuances and whispers of determining truth.

Yet, I am amazed by those of us who can’t or don’t pay attention to the deteriorating effects of not allowing prayer in schools. I’ve always embraced the constitutional considerations and the need not to exclude one group from inclusion in others. But the genius of any culture governed by laws is its ability to adjust to the nuances involved in the effects of absolutes not revisited, absolutes left to cause and effect that create a culture of misbehavior and in some places chaos.

My fear is that we aren’t paying attention to the long term effect of refusing to allow prayer in the classroom. It’s like the long term effects of texting to the exclusion of developing our natural ability to talk. Something’s come naturally and to ignore or ban them causes the abnormal to flourish.

So how does prayer make that much difference for you and me? The presence of prayer always reminds us that we are accountable for how we treat each other. When in school we were as afraid of what The Lord heard us say as we were of what the teacher heard.

There was a sense of the abiding presence of God in everything we did. We got comfortable under his divine gaze, learned to express ourselves within the across the board standard of his will. In short, the presence of prayer made us accountable mentally, socially, morally and spiritually.

Whether we like it or not most if not all of our cultural norms for how we treat each other are based on religious principles. To deny the presence of prayer is to ignore one of the most important sources of information we’ve been sent to school to learn.

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award winning Television Investigative Journalist. He is a graduate of Suffolk High School, Virginia Union University and it’s Samuel Proctor School of Theology. Email him at dennisredwards@icloud.com.

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