Monday, April 13, 2015

So You Messed Up Your Exam! Why Pray?

                  “Post debacle” prayer or ‘How would prayer help me when I have messed up?’ is intriguing enough to be examined.

            The specific situation of children writing crucial examinations in India could be a good case in point. Contextually our question could be, ‘would there be any use in prayer after messing up the exams?’

            Indian high schoolers (11th & 12th graders) are deemed potentially unsuccessful if they do not pursue an education in science or commerce. According to scores of Indian parents, these are flagship streams, while others such as social sciences (arts/humanities) are apparently worthless. This thought paradigm is predicated on the ostensible financial stability offered by jobs within the science or commerce domains.

            Children studying in grades 10 and 12 (who would, at the end of their respective academic years, write crucial examinations) in India are an incredibly stressed out group. I believe that parents, peers, and public increase their stress.

            First, parents stress out their children. They burden the child with high, and in several instances, needless expectations by forcing them to pursue undergraduate and graduate programs in medical (not nursing), engineering, biotechnology, chartered accountancy or management.

            God has appointed parents as stewards of children – to care, nourish and protect them against all forms of evil. Unnecessary stress upon anyone, let alone children, is evil. God does not intend to bring stress to anyone.

            If parents are sensitive to God’s will and leading, they will do well and not be a stress factor for their children. There is an undeniable difference between handholding our children to excel and thrusting our desires upon them, especially when they do not buy into ‘our’ desire for their future.   

            Second, children are stressed out by peer pressure. When peers are focused on pursuing these much-vaunted courses, the child is inevitably stressed out if he is unable to or does not desire to pursue these courses.

            Third, public pressure stresses out these children. Even before the student enters grade 10, a popular topic of conversation during public engagements with friends or relatives is, “What do you plan on studying in grade 11?” If the student responds, “I haven’t figured it out yet” or “I desire to be a teacher,” then the child, in all likelihood, will be explicitly or subtly disgraced, for professions such as teaching, and an existence without adequate knowledge or planning for the future, is considered slothful and stupid in the Indian subcontinent.

            Then there is the rather insane competition to secure admission into decent academic institutions in India that increase children’s stress. In many instances, even a score as high as 90% does not fetch one a seat in a premier institution.

            In India, ‘messing up’ need not necessarily imply an ‘F’ grade. Any score lesser than 90% (less than A+) is considered a mess-up depending on the actual situation the child could be in. When expectations are sky-high, a micro-thin line separates success and failure in India.

            Why does a child mess up in exams?

            A child may not be innately gifted to excel in the Indian academic system. Moreover, adverse situations could negatively impact a child’s preparation preventing the child’s potential excellence.

            Certainly, a child cannot be held responsible if he/she is not gifted intellectually or if the child is thrust into an adverse situation, which the child has no control over. The responsibility then is in the domain of the sovereign God who created the child with subpar intellectuality, and who need not have thrust the child into the adverse situation.

            Thus children (and their parents), who are embedded in these situations, cannot be faulted for praying to God after messing up the exam. But our question remains, is it of any use to pray after messing up the exam?

            In other words, would God miraculously transform the wrong answer to the right or manipulate the evaluator of the test papers to award marks to the wrong answers? Although God could sovereignly perform the aforesaid deeds, HE would not perform those deeds (for it would contradict HIS attribute of justice) to unjustly rescue the child who prays to HIM.

            If God offers success to every diligent prayer, would not the child and parents resort to prayer with greater fervor than preparing for the exams? Also, if prayer is the recipe for academic success, then would not a majority of Christian students occupy all the premier institutions in India?  But this is not a reality in India.

            Furthermore, if God offers material success e.g. success in the exam to every diligent prayer, would not the whole world flock to God merely for the sake of material prosperity?

            If this is the case, none will believe God for the sake of deliverance from their sins and none will love God for HIS perfect sacrifice in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            Given these considerations, we could safely conclude that God would not miraculously help the child so to promote lethargy or disinterest with regard to his/her education. Instead, God will perform deeds to promote diligence and responsibility in a student as long as the student wills to work hard for success. God would not do anything unjust but to lead the evaluator to grade the test paper more graciously and in all fairness.  

            So are we not supposed to pray after messing up? The Bible mandates us to pray continually, which undoubtedly mandates us to pray after messing up.

            What then should be the purpose of our prayer after messing up?

            A child who is inadequately gifted intellectually or a child implanted in adversity should pray predominantly for the realization of God’s will for his/her life (this holds true for the parents of the child as well). These children and their parents should also pray for divine strength to overcome their weaknesses so to pursue God’s will for their lives.

            Parents, especially, should realize that social sciences or similar streams of education could be employed by God to fulfill HIS will for the child and the world. Moreover parents should realize that abundance of income is not primarily dependent on the work of our hands, instead, it is solely dependent on God who offers life and various blessings to us.

            The loving, gracious, merciful and compassionate God does not destroy the lives of HIS people. Although God allows pain into our lives, HIS grace will always be sufficient for us and HIS incomparably great power will enable us to overcome pain.

            There are children who prepare to the best of their abilities. However since they are gifted with subpar intellectuality or because of adversities, they cannot score high grades. Then there are those who could have messed up their preparation for a variety of reasons. In both instances, not only the children, but their parents should also pray to achieve the following: 

            First, request God for strength to accept the consequences i.e. result of messing up the exam. Second, ask God for wisdom to move forward i.e. our next step action subsequent to the failure. Third, repent and plead to God that HE would enable us to change so that we do not repeat our sins/errors of apathetic preparations that led to the mess up (repentance is only for those who deliberately mess up their preparations).

            We should always remember that God is a God of second chances. God expects us to exercise our freewill to love, obey and repent of our sins to be drawn closer to HIM for HIS will to be ours.

            Messing up is not an aberration in our life, but we need God to enable us to stop messing up repetitively. If we seek God earnestly, God will graciously enable us to do HIS will. Our goal is to become wiser as days go by – wiser by godly living that promotes diligence, responsibility, and accountability in all that we do so that God is constantly glorified in our lives. Amen.    

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