I still remember the first time I heard about what was really happening in our Arizona schools. I didn’t know that teachers used their own money to buy students essential clothing like underwear, or that schools didn’t have the resources to maintain buildings. I had no idea that teachers gave out canned goods on Fridays so that kids could eat over the weekend. I didn’t know about the number of students who were homeless, struggling academically, overdosing on drugs, or attempting to take their own lives. Even the churches right next door to these schools knew nothing about what was going on inside those walls!
So when four young men—Mike, Matt, Jon, and Keith—showed up at our ministry offices to ask if we would help them with an initiative to pray inside the schools of Arizona, I knew it was a God assignment! We all heard the Lord say the same thing: “Invite My transforming presence into the schools.”
We began meeting with the principals of targeted schools. One of the first things we did when meeting with principals was to ask forgiveness for not taking time to find out the needs of their school. We said we were sorry for not praying and doing what we could to meet their school’s tangible needs. Then we asked them how we could pray for their schools. I remember sitting in the office of one principal and asking him, “What is the biggest problem your school faces?” He broke down in tears. “That’s an easy question to answer,” he said. “There’s no hope here!” We knew God wanted to change this!
So we rented school auditoriums and prayed and worshiped in 26-hour prayer vigils in schools all across the state. I’ll be the first to admit, this was a stretch. We struggled to step out in faith to raise the money to rent the auditoriums—and then labor all night in intercession every weekend that fall! With broken hearts we cried out to God for food for the students, more teachers, money for repairs of the buildings, new sports equipment, and better test scores. In the midnight hours we worshiped and contended together against suicide, depression, and despair. . . .
The problems we discovered are not unique to Arizona. Most schools face similar issues. Beyond the physical and financial needs—and they are great—our schools desperately need the healing power of Jesus. No wonder it seems hopeless.
Secular institutions can’t solve a spiritual and moral crisis or give kids what they need most: an encounter with the Lord. The good news is, we’ve seen what God can do. Miracles happen when we
invite His transforming presence into our schools!
We know of teens who, after coming to our prayer gathering at their school, changed their minds about killing themselves. At least two of them had planned to take their own lives at school that very night. Instead they heard the worship, came inside, and ended up giving their lives to the Lord.
When stories of what God was doing in schools got out, things began to change. The eyes of the community were opened. The Holy Spirit awakened the Church. Now families and churches are getting involved in adopting schools for prayer and practical service everywhere across the state. They are providing backpacks, food, tutors, and mentors. In one school, at the request of the principal, we created a Serve, Watch, and Pray program. About 80 members of a nearby church signed up to serve as volunteers on campus, and we trained them how to“watch and pray” on the job.
You may not be a church leader or have the time or connections to launch a major prayer initiative. What can you do?
Grab a prayer partner and go for a prayerwalk around a school.
If you have school-age children or grandchildren, pray with them about their school during a mealtime or before bed. When you are dropping off or picking up your child at school, arrive early and pray over the students and teachers you see—and anything else God puts on your heart.
Here are some vital issues for which every school needs prayer:
• Protection from evil: Pray Psalm 91 over the school and ask the Lord to station His angels all around. Ask God for protection not only from shootings and violence but also from bullying, drugs, gangs, and evil spirits that come to steal, kill, and destroy (see John 10:10).
• Overcoming hopelessness: Declare, in Jesus’ name, that all thoughts of suicide, depression, hopelessness, and despair are broken off (see Jer. 29:11). Pray with expectation and confidence that students will experience salvation and the joy that comes from knowing Him.
• Prospering in school: Ask the Lord to place each student with the teachers and classrooms where that particular student will prosper. Ask Him to send godly influences to the young people to encourage them in their studies and their walk with Jesus Christ.
• Contending for purpose and destiny: Ask God to raise up young people with godly purpose and destiny to contend for righteousness and justice at their schools (Amos 5:24) because our schools are gates of cultural influence in our nation. Ask Him to raise up those who, like David, will fulfill the purpose of God in their generation.
There may be principals, teachers, and students in your community who feel there is no hope. But we know the answer that can result when the Church comes together and seeks God for His blessing and transformation in our schools. We just need to take the initiative.
CHERYL SACKS is a best-selling author, conference speaker, and prayer mobilizer. Her “Prayer-Saturated” book series—including The Prayer-Saturated Church, Prayer-Saturated Kids, and The Prayer-Saturated Family—has helped tens of thousands of individuals and families go deeper in prayer. Cheryl has launched a nationwide back-to-school prayer campaign, which includes a strategic prayer guide —“Reclaim a Generation: 21 Days of Prayer for Schools” (prayershop.org). This is an urgent call for individuals and churches to pray for our kids and schools every August. You can learn more about Cheryl and her husband Hal’s ministry at prayersaturated.school and prayersaturated.life.