The Spirit in the Classroom

Note to the reader: This is the last of the meditations for this school year. My prayer for you this summer is that the Lord will give you wisdom as you plan for teaching in the fall. You’ll be planning a “new normal” given pandemic realities. But you and your colleagues don’t have to plan alone, for the Holy Spirit is your guide. Glorious insights and academic strength will be yours as the Spirit prompts you, and I am praying for you to that end. Have a blessed summer.

The Spirit in the Classroom

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
– Ephesians 3:16

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
– James 1:17

When we pray for the Spirit’s help in our teaching, how do we expect the prayer to be answered? Many times it is answered when an atmosphere of acceptance and openness in class replaces one of fear. When the students trust the teacher, they are more likely to engage in learning. As every teacher knows, trust is the key to fruitful exchanges between the teacher and her student. We should pray for such trust.

Other times the problem is an academic one. Teachers know the frustration of not being able to “get through” to students. The concepts are difficult to teach, and sometimes we teachers are not very clear in our explanations. Does the Holy Spirit help solve academic problems? I think so.

There are times when I am lost in thought, trying to sort through ideas that don’t seem to fit together. Suddenly they all fit, like the pieces of a puzzle. Realizing what has happened, I pray a simple “Thank you, Lord” for the breakthrough. Christians who sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in doxology to God, learn to expect the Spirit’s help in all kinds of ways. Indeed, every good and perfect gift comes from above, says James.

Isaiah describes this divine aid in his picture of the work of the farmer: “When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? …His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.”  Matthew Henry says we can count on the Spirit to help us “do our duty…with vigor and cheerfulness.” We teachers can pray for God to teach us the right way in our work.

This attitude does go against the tradition of some Christians to restrict the Spirit’s presence to times of prayer and worship. Church is the realm of religion, they say, but school is about learning facts. What does the Holy Spirit have to do with learning?

The British educator Charlotte Mason thought of the Holy Spirit as the essential educator for students. “What a revolution,” she once wrote, “if we could once conceive that dry-as-dust subjects like grammar and arithmetic should come to children, living with the life of the Holy Spirit, who, we are told, ‘shall teach you all things.’” Certainly students seem to “come alive” when they succeed in mastering difficult material. They are relieved and happy.

There is much that remains a mystery to us. The skeptic looks at the student who suddenly “gets it” and explains it solely on rational grounds.  Perhaps the skeptic is right some of the time. My own experience leads me to think usually not.

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
– Hymn by Daniel Iverson


Stephen Kaufmann
Covenant College