“Lord, teach us to pray!”

These words are just as appropriate in thinking about praying for schools as when the disciples said them to Jesus. The Bible is full of examples of how God’s people prayed and God acted.

People often say “All I can do is pray”. In fact when Jesus saw the crowds coming to him he had compassion on them and he turned to his disciples and said “Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field”.

Praying is a vital part of schools ministry.

Praying for Scripture Union

SU groups come in all shapes and sizes. They provide support for Christians, both pupils and staff, enabling them to grow in faith, to live as followers of Jesus and to be salt and light in their context. Many reach children and young people who have no church connection with the Good News about Jesus for the first time.

There are a number of ways in which you can make a difference by your prayers.

You may wish to pray for SU groups in schools throughout Northern Ireland and, if so, please click here to downlad a copy of our School SU Prayer Guide for 2013. The guide lists all the schools in Northern Ireland in which there is an SU group at present and suggests that you pray for five groups each day and thus pray for each group once every two months.

Alternatively, you may wish to commit to praying regularly for the SU groups in your area or for the groups in one or two particular schools that you know.

However many groups you are praying for, here are some suggestions to get you started.

  • Pray that children and young people will engage with God and be transformed by Him as they meet together each week.
  • Pray that children and young people with no church connection will attend and that they will come to know Jesus through the witness of the group.
  • Pray that the members of the group will encourage and support one another and that real friendships will be formed.
  • Pray that leaders will have insight and creativity as they plan programmes to help children and young people meet God through the Bible and grow as followers of Jesus.
  • Pray that teachers will have the energy and enthusiasm they need to be involved in their groups in the middle or at the end of a busy day.
  • Pray that God will help Christian teachers and pupils to be salt and light in their schools.
  • Pray that senior pupils will grow in faith and make a real impact as they help lead their groups.
  • Pray that churches will catch the vision to pray for and support groups in their local schools.
  • Pray for SU staff as they seek to encourage and resource SU leaders throughout the year.
  • Pray that doors will be opened for groups to start in schools where there are none at present.

Meeting with others to pray specifically for one or more of the schools in your area can be a really effective way of focusing prayer. Prayer groups can meet in homes or in some cases on the school premises. So how do you get started?

Getting a group started

  • Share the idea with some people who might be interested.
  • Plan an initial meeting.
  • Produce a written notice about the initial meeting. Make sure there is a way for people to be informed of future meetings even if they can’t make the first one.
  • Prepare to start small. Even two or three praying regularly can make a huge difference, but be ready to grow, too!
  • Contact known Christians in the schools you will be praying for. Invite them to the meeting, or to give you suggestions for prayer.
  • If your group is praying for just one particular school, it can be a good idea to inform the school about what you are doing. It can save misunderstanding, and you may be amazed at the response.
  • Pray about your plans.

The first meeting

  • Share your vision for the group with everyone, and develop the vision as people have new ideas.
  • Give everyone space for questions, comments, etc.
  • Determine the frequency of the meetings.

Use this checklist:

  • Where will you meet?
  • Which day and at what time?
  • How often and for how long?
  • Will the venue be fixed or varied?
  • Who will lead the meetings?
  • How will you make sure anyone interested hears about it?
  • How will you find out what needs there are to pray for?

What to pray for

  • Pray about the whole of school life: pupils, staff, class teachers, management, appointments, Christians in the school, governors, RE policy, assemblies, special events, exams, discipline, safety, etc…
  • Keep a record of the things you pray for, and how God answers.
  • You may be asked to pray for things that are confidential. Make sure the information is kept within the group.

Keeping going

  • Think long term. Sometimes we need to pray about things for a long time.
  • Look for ways of sharing with local churches what has been going on in your group. Have a regular way of getting your group advertised in churches, perhaps through their weekly or monthly news sheets.
  • Invite a special guest from time to time, to pray with you or share some things for prayer. This could be a local Christian involved in education, some pupils from school, or a local SU leader or Scripture Union schools worker.

Encouraging Your Church to Pray

As well as praying yourself, there are a number of ways in which you might encourage your church to pray for the schools in your area. Here are a few ideas:

Church services

  • Hold a commissioning service for Christian teachers and SU leaders at the start of the new school year.
  • Mark the annual ‘Education Sunday’ as an opportunity to focus on schools.

Home groups and cells

  • Encourage each group to pray specifically for schools. Adopt a teacher or a school and pray for them regularly.

Focus on Schools’ evening

  • This could have many different emphases: prayer for all the teachers and classroom assistants in your church community, prayer for specific local schools, or for the work of Scripture Union in Schools.

Church notices

  • Have a regular slot in your prayer diary or on your notice board where items for prayer for local schools can be mentioned.

Prayer Coordinator

  • All of the above are more likely to happen if someone with a particular interest in this area of church life takes responsibility for keeping people informed of prayer needs. As a church member perhaps you could be the one to find out about your local schools and share the needs with your church or home group.