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Prayer: A Vital Ingredient of Homeschool

By Rhonda Barfield
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #101, 2011.

Admit you can't figure out everything, and ask for God's help.
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Rhonda Barfield

“Ask, and it will be given to you,” said Jesus in Matthew 7:7 (ESV). “Seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” In my younger days, I assumed this meant that God was like Santa Claus. I asked, He delivered.
Later I learned differently. “Prayer is request,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them.” In both cases, whether the answer is yes or no, I’ve found prayer to be essential throughout my homeschooling journey.
We need prayer, for example, to help us raise our children. Now that my kids are adults, we talk freely about Michael’s and my parenting. Sometimes they tell us that we were the best mom and dad in the world. I’ve also heard about our mistakes. One of our children recently confided disappointment in my inept handling of a situation that I should have addressed differently, and didn’t.
Yes, I failed to raise my children as well as I’d hoped. But I know my parenting would have been much more deficient, had I not relied heavily on almost daily prayer. I asked God to guide me, give me wisdom, and enable me to love and serve my children. In spite of my many shortcomings, He answered that plea for help.
We also need prayer to guide us in homeschooling. Even with the help of friends, mentors, and experts, I look back on communication with God as my greatest resource in helping me make the right decisions about schooling.
For example, my daughter Lisa once approached me, asking if she could design her own curriculum for her eighth grade year. I told her I’d think and pray about it. The next summer, when I wrote the book Real-Life Homeschooling, I had a chance to interview “unschoolers” and understand how their approach worked. Perfect timing, thanks to prayer. This gave me the confidence to approve Lisa’s individualized plan for eighth grade.
In addition, we need prayer to give us the strength to face life’s challenges. Several years ago, a neurologist incorrectly diagnosed me with epilepsy. For two years I took increasingly high doses of drugs to control seizures, which averaged two or three a week and left me exhausted. I couldn’t think, carry on a conversation, write, or function more than minimally.
Through a bizarre set of circumstances, a friend steered me to a naturopath, who helped me plan a new approach to treatment. A year later, my seizures had decreased to one every couple of months. I got my energy and my life back. I doubt that I would have found a solution, nor had the strength to face the trial, without divine help.
Prayer should be an essential component in all of our lives, especially for those of us who’ve committed to teaching our children at home. We desperately need this communication with God to help us parent, homeschool, and simply face the day-to-day commitments, sorrows, tragedies, and joys of life.
Though we may not approve of God’s answers, we can count on the fact that they’re beneficial. As Jesus continued in Matthew 7: “If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
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