Children and young adults today are not able to experience the same patterns of expressing faith publicly as in earlier decades, as the Rev. Billy Graham had indicated in a column this week. More than 3 million students defied that trend Wednesday morning when they met at the flagpole with prayers on their public campuses.
See You at the Pole, a student-initiated and student-led movement, saw groups of tens and hundreds in all 50 states and 20 other countries gather in circles to jumpstart their school day with prayers.
"It's just really important that ... everybody knows that we're praying for them," said a high school student in Nashville, according to WKRN-TV, a local news station.
Students prayed for the nation, leaders, faculty and each other with some students prayerfully asking to see opportunities in the school hallways to share the Word of God.
One faculty member who joined the students in Nashville called the prayer event a "spiritual pep rally" with the day starting out with fellowship and prayer among Christian students and teachers.
Although millions express their faith publicly each year at See You at the Pole, Graham recognized a public discouragement that has been largely seen in schools.
"I know this is a complicated political and legal issue, and I have no way of knowing if we will ever return to the patterns of the past," he said in a column in response to a reader's question. "Unfortunately, the general trend in our society is certainly away from God and against any public expressions of faith."
The valedictorian of Foothill High School delivered a commencement speech in June that had biblical references and one reference to Christ. Her speech was cut short as Clark County School District officials had amounted her speech to proselytizing ad that her commentary could have been perceived as school-sponsored. Brittany McComb, the valedictorian, argued on the basis of free speech, but school officials affirmed that the speech was "school-sponsored" and thus promoting religion was not allowed.
And prayer in school has been controversial for decades. Munford High School in Tennessee had regularly set aside a time for prayer during graduations. Prayer was deleted from the graduation program this past graduation in May, arousing protest from students and parents.
In any case, Graham, who is often referred to as Americas Pastor, said the increasing trend of removing prayers and faith expressions in public schools is a "sign of our nation's increasing drift from God."
"Pray for our nation and its leaders every day," he urged.