Principal Karl Graustein drops into classes each week at the Lower School in Severn, and he made sure he didn't miss prayer time with this special first-grade class who collectively convinced their teacher that it was time to change the world, one prayer at a time.
Ridings set aside time with the Lord every school day for communal prayer with her students. It's part of the regular rhythm for AACS classrooms. In January, her students raised the idea to "pray for people." At first, Ridings was sure they meant immediate family members, firefighters, police officers, and other community helpers. As the class mulled the idea over, Ridings felt the presence of the Spirit breathing life into the outpouring of thoughts from each student. She knew the Lord had plans beyond her vision. "Their enthusiasm for the project was not only contagious, but also God-honoring and compassionate in a way I've rarely seen in children so young," she explained.
After putting the finishing touches on the prayer wall bulletin board that her students conceptualized and created, the sticky notes from the students' family and friends began filling a corner of the transformed bulletin board. Soon, other classes took notice and the prayer requests exponentially grew, a visible testament of how the Lord works in and through those who know and follow Him. Ridings used her email and inter-campus mail to connect her ten "faithfuls" to the rest of the K-12 community. By the time the second week in March hit, the prayer wall was covered and the daily prayer routine had become a sacred and eagerly anticipated time during the instructional day. She realized that her 6- and 7-year-olds were getting just as much if not more out of praying out loud and together for others as they were learning about the Bible and their Creator.
Each child grew closer to Jesus in the weeks before the coronavirus pandemic forced Maryland school buildings to close in mid-March. Although the prayer wall was left behind, the prayers--well documented by Ridings--survived the transition to virtual school. Ridings and Charlotte Hudlow, a lower school educational support instructor, see the fruit of the Spirit in each one of the children who now eagerly come to the Zoom meeting at 9:00 a.m. on school days. With a little "in-house" help, they have transitioned to virtual prayer meetings, as Ridings and Hudlow try not to let their amusement show when parents and caregivers gently wrestle toys away, redirect trailing faces and voices to the connected device's camera, and remove younger siblings from the mix when the distraction becomes too much. Such is life right now for just about every family with young kids around the globe.
It's 9:00 a.m. on a Tuesday in late April. The class is still virtual and remains apart at least until May 15. Distance learning has taken its toll on teachers, students, and parents, alike. Yet for a few moments, the fatigue lifts as the class gathers--one body, united in Christ, humbly asking their creator to bless and protect dozens of people who have entrusted a personal prayer to them. "I don't think they understand the impact of their idea started with a class conversation in January," Ridings said two weeks into the new normal of sheltering at home. "I know they feel the Spirit and because of that, they are comforted at a time when they need it most. God's provision a beautiful thing to watch, especially in hindsight." Each day, her students grow in their ability to pray specifically and wholeheartedly. Parents share with Ridings that 'prayer time' is often initiated on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons by their first grader."
How can these students pray for you? Have your prayers been answered? Let your prayer warriors know their petitions on your behalf are heard. Email Sherrie Ridings at email@example.com with prayer requests and praises. In the meantime, rest assured that daily time with Jesus, virtually or in class, will continue with this special group of students, as they lift up AACS friends and family to the Lord, praying without ceasing.
1Thessalonians 5: 15-18
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.