Prayer is Returning to Public Schools

Will you claim your campus and join the movement? 

April 22, 2024

The landmark 1962 ruling of Engel v. Vitale removed school-sponsored prayer from public schools. 

The justices ruled that it violated the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . .” Many believe this specific case was the beginning of our nation’s moral decline.  

This ruling removed prayer from any official capacity. Teachers can no longer lead their classes in prayer, principals can no longer pray over the intercom, and any officially-sanctioned recitation of prayers is strictly forbidden. 

According to the Department of Education website, “Although the Constitution forbids public school officials acting in their official capacities from directing or favoring prayer … nothing in the Constitution prohibits any public-school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the school day.”1

To be clear, God will never be removed from public schools, but this ruling did nothing to prevent students from having the right to pray. If teachers, counselors, and coaches are prohibited from offering public prayers, then perhaps students will usher in a resurgence of prayer. This is the mission of Claim Your Campus, a growing ministry dedicated to sparking a nationwide prayer movement. Their goal is to mobilize one million students to pray over their schools. 

Seeds of Faith

The ministry began almost 20 years ago when a small group of high school students in western Michigan began to pray for their local school. The high school was plagued with violence. Fights were breaking out each day in the hallways, and the safety of the students was at risk. 

The students felt led to pray consistently each day before school and shared their burden with a local youth pastor. A few months after faithfully interceding on behalf of their school, the youth pastor shared an incredible statistic. A gathering of the local school board earlier that week was a cause for celebration. For the first time in years, the fighting had completely stopped. Their prayers had been answered. 

This story had a profound effect on everyone involved. What if this happened at every school in America? If only 15 students prayed in each of the 67,000 public and private middle schools and high schools across the country, then one million young people would be mobilized for prayer! At that moment, Claim Your Campus was born. 

As Claim Your Campus began to build momentum across the country, a group of sophomores in Marion, Indiana, began to intercede on behalf of their school. They focused their prayers on ending violence, improving grades, and strengthening the faith of their friends. With several fights each day and an “F- rating” for plummeting test scores, these students longed to see God move. God answered their prayers. The fighting began to cease, test scores began to increase, and the principal was so moved by their efforts that he started attending their local church and was later baptized! 

Stories like these are now being multiplied throughout the nation because young people are choosing to intercede for their schools and their generation. CYC prayer groups are happening nationwide from early Monday morning to Friday after school. Generation Z is answering the call to pray, and God is bringing healing to the hallways.

Since 2015, Claim Your Campus has partnered with national ministries such as the National Day of Prayer, See You at The Pole, Christian Educators, and Moms in Prayer. Training happens at national conferences, churches, CYC Gatherings, virtual training calls, and on the free Claim Your Campus prayer app with more than 30,000 students trained to pray and chapters active in 48 states. Now, under the direction of Olivia Williamson, the ministry is beginning to reach a tipping point. Prayer is powerful, and it’s returning to public schools. 

Stories from the Hallways

Baileigh, a high schooler from Ohio, woke up early one Monday morning to pray with her CYC group. As they asked God for health and protection, the Holy Spirit highlighted a girl who needed prayer across the room. The girl had a heart defect and recently heard she would never run or play soccer again. Baileigh knew the power of prayer, laid hands on the girl, and asked God for complete healing. Later that afternoon, Baileigh received a text that the girl’s doctor verified her heart condition completely healed! 

Struggling with a marijuana addiction, a middle schooler approached a CYC prayer group in their school and asked for prayer. His drug addiction was only the tip of the iceberg. Hopeless and lost, the group prayed over this hurting student. He later responded, “That prayer saved my life.” He is now on the road to recovery and growing spiritually.

Wesson is a middle schooler who has been amazed at how God is changing his campus through prayer. Coming from a small-town school with only 20 students in his graduating class, he was unsure how many students would attend his CYC group. His group grew dramatically in the first semester, and now 52 middle schoolers show up regularly to pray in the school’s hallways.

Claim Your Campus

God is moving in schools across the nation, and a generation of students are learning the power of prayer and the life-giving relationship that Jesus can bring. Perhaps God is preparing to unleash a new wave of prayer warriors across the country’s 67,000 middle and high schools. How might he be calling you? Will you claim your campus?  

Students can join the movement by downloading the Claim Your Campus app, inviting a few friends to participate, and showing up weekly to pray at their school. The app offers opportunities to find other friends, post stories, and receive training. Adults can also join the movement by prayer walking a school or mobilizing students in their community. It’s time to bring prayer back to school. It’s time to claim your campus! 

Claim Your Campus was recently awarded a significant financial grant as one of the top three finalists at our annual Shark Tank event through Next Ventures. Next Ventures is a program of Exponential Next that seeks to foster innovation by making a significant Kingdom investment in ministry practitioners committed to shaping what’s next for the future church. 

If you have an innovative ministry or testimony you would like to share, we would love to connect! 

 

NOTES

  1. https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/religionandschools/prayer_guidance.html#:~:text= 
Jon Wiest

Jon Wiest

Jon Wiest (“West”) is the Co-Founder of Mobilize the Church, a global ministry mobilizing a growing wave of disciple makers, pioneer leaders, and church planters. He previously planted churches in Dallas, TX and Des Moines, IA and is the author of Banding Together and Pioneers. Jon has degrees from Wheaton College, Wesley Seminary, and a D.Min. in Church Planting from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is a rabid San Francisco 49ers fan, loves traveling, sports, and history, and currently lives in the Indianapolis, IN area with his wife and four daughters.
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