Prayer for Children Going to School

The Merry Mystic Slips a Note into your Backpack

Today I have a poem to share with you. Check out the video below.

What about your experience of school? Scroll down and share a thought below.

Here’s the text of that poem again.

Prayer for Children Going to School

I saw them waiting in line,
	four children,
	early in the morning,
	backpacks ready and full.
I saw the yellow bus take them away.
And I rode with them in thought to the place they were going:
	the double doors to darkness and to doubt,
	the waiting in lines,
	the permission slips, the hall monitors,
	the subjects to learn and be tested on.
And, of course, the bells.
Regular, like in a monastery, yet so unlike,
	and faster, so much faster,
signifying, over and over:
	stop what you're doing.
	Your time, your will, your body, your soul, count for nothing.
	Can't you see the next machine is waiting for you?
Their sighs rise up regularly
	 with every ringing of the bell.

And I know,
they police themselves ruthlessly, 
	hating any part that exposes them to ridicule.
And these parts, too, rise up regularly,
	a constant stream of despised selves,
	unwhite selves, stuttering selves,
	fat, skinny, ugly selves,
	picked-last-for-kickball selves,
	boyish selves, sissy selves,
	mockable, different, hateful selves,
	all, all, are cast off and rise up to heaven.

I do not believe, O Lord, that you made children
	for this purpose,
	to serve as burnt offerings like this.
You could speak to them;
	please could you speak to them?
You could tell them:
	I am the Lord your God.
	I love these despised selves.
You cast them off, but they rose up to heaven,
	and now I want you to have them back,
	as good as new.

Here's an idea, Lord:
	maybe you could slip them into the backpacks.
Maybe when the bus comes back,
	and the kids come home,
maybe they could open up their bags and find,
	among the books and pens and pencils,
their lost hours,
	and their spent sighs,
	and their beloved selves.
Maybe you could pin a note to them—you know.

And, dear Lord,
	if you find anything else up there,
	anything that rose up forty-odd years ago,
	anything that belongs to me,
	could I have it back please?
I promise to take better care of it this time.

Please think about serving others with your comments. Anything offensive or too off-topic, I'll delete.

Share a Thought

9 thoughts on “Prayer for Children Going to School

  1. The poem hit m hard. Suddenly I was thrown back to the little girl that walked like a duck. who , because of asthma got sick a lot and could not run fast. You reminded me that we need to pray for the children. I wish they could feel the love we have for them.

  2. HI Adam,

    Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful poem. I do know many people who could identify with your words, but not myself. Although, I never felt like my academic needs were meant, (square hole round peg) I had a wonderful experience. So many things to do and so little time. I love meeting new people and finding out all about them, so school was a joy for me most of the time. My heart breaks for those who’s experience was so painful. There were so many that the public and private school system failed in so many ways. My children are on that list of feeling like “burnt offerings”, and remeber to this day each incident that hurt them in someway. So sad!!!

    Thank you for your insight and your willingness to share with others. Susan

    • Thanks for sharing that, Susan.

      My wife and I both had unhappy school experiences, which is part of the reason we ended up homeschooling our own children. But who knows? Our children might not have been like us; they might have found joy in the school environment, as you did. It’s tough to be a parent, trying to figure out how to guide your children on a joyful path. There’s so much guesswork involved. Maybe we should write a “Prayer for Parents of Children Going to School!”

  3. Hope you will read poet Mary Oliver’s thoughts on this subject. In her book, Long Life, it is titled “Just as the Calendar began to say Summer.” She shares your longings.
    But you’re delving into a many-faceted subject, Adam. Did you also pray for teachers? Are you aware how many educators share your values, how many DO teach (and model) kindness? And consider the children in America whose best times, and best meals, and safest moments are at school. Not to mention those in some countries who would give anything to go to school. It’s a tough subject all around, with no obvious solutions. Yes, yes to your pleas for “freedom.”
    I was blessed to be of a temperament and situation where I enjoyed school, back in the day. Yet I screamed for joy on the last day of school every summer. Especially when I was a teacher!

    • Thanks, friend, for pointing out that Mary Oliver poem! I love her work, but I don’t remember reading that one before.

      And yes, I agree: we should pray for teachers. I’ve been blessed with some great ones, too: kind, generous, inventive people who changed the course of my life. I pray for them often — and for those teachers I’ve gotten to know in adulthood, like my wife, a former elementary school teacher, and like a number of my colleagues from my university teaching days. I know that many of them have felt frustrated by their institutions even as they struggled to make a difference for kids within them. It is a great ministry, and my hat’s off to you. The teacher within the educational institution, the healer within the medical complex, the statesman within the political system, the friend-of-God within the church — we are all trying to express our humanity within inhumanity, within systems that sometimes have other agendas of their own.

      Perhaps you could write a prayer for teachers, to share with us?


      P.S. — May I address you as Mary, or is it Dudley? I can’t tell from your email…

        • Here is my prayer for teachers, which I’ve specified for “public school teachers.” It doesn’t feel complete, so consider it a work-in-progress if anywone wants to add suggestions. Thanks,


          Spirit of Love, I pray that teachers will be given a freedom of heart that lifts them above the restrictions of the educational system.
          May their original ideals of “making a difference” not be squelched by authorities who inadvertently prescribe methods that do not fit students’ needs.
          May teachers be gifted with good humor and kindness as well as the tools to offer knowledge and curiosity to young minds.
          I ask a special grace for those whose creative fires have burned out, smothered by a group-think that values test scores above discovery.
          May teachers overwhelmed with the difficulties students bring find positive ways to shine light into that darkness.
          Spirit of Wisdom, may teachers who keep going to their schools every day and smiling at their youngsters be given Divine energy to rejoice in possibilities.
          May they know the fulfillment of watching students thrive and grow and the pleasure of parental support and appreciation.
          Give teachers the capacity to find a joyful balance between ongoing struggles and intrinsic rewards as they bravely share their lives with our children.

          • Beautiful, Dudley! Thank you so much for sharing this.

            I’d like to repost your prayer as a guest post here, for those who are not following this comment thread. May I?