Monday, December 27, 2010

Holy Cheating?

I’m intrigued by the number of recommendations to pray for students around examination time – particularly the ones that ask God to help them do well in their exams. I can’t help wondering whether this is a form of holy cheating. Surely if God helps a person do better on an exam as a result of prayer but doesn’t help another student who hasn’t prayed, wouldn’t that be in the same category as a performance enhancing drug?

I’ve been trying to think of what one could pray for without cheating – better memory? answers to questions that haven’t been learned? increased energy after a hard night? Surely all of these are enhancing aspects that would provide an unfair advantage over others – cheating!
Maybe what students can pray for is the wisdom to know the relationship between hard work, lots of study, learning how memory works, critical thinking skills and good grades. Now that is something that could be prayed for! Let’s stop asking God to help our students cheat. Instead, let’s ask God to assist in making then better students before they enter the examination room.

- Steve Parker
I'm specifically referring to any prayer in relation to an exam that would involve God somehow giving a student an advantage over another student. As Christians, we are constantly exhorted to pray for things that are not appropriate. For example, a woman once told me that someone she knew would become a Christian because she had asked God to convert the person. But what about free will? God doesn't force people to accept God against their will - people have a choice and so for the woman to assume that someone she was praying for would definitely become a Christian, just because she was praying for them, attributes something to God that God would not do - as far as I can see from Scripture.
Asking God to help a person pass an examination by any supernatural means would be asking God to do something unethical. I work in a tertiary institution where, for example, it is forbidden to take notes into an examination. Students are severely punished if they are found doing so. So asking God to bring something to a student's memory in an exam by some sort of supernatural intervention, would be no different to taking notes in to the exam room.
Examinations are not the only place we here Christians ascribing things to God that may be immoral. I have heard footballers claim God helped them win goals/games. Really? Is God intervening so that certain players/teams win a football game?
So: the point is - as Christians we need to think about some of the things we ask of God and expect God to do. What does the Bible say we should pray for? That is a question we need to all ask and spend our time praying for those things rather than asking God to engage in our sometimes self-interested desires. Check the New Testament some time to see the sorts of things we can legitimately pray for:
  • pray for our enemies
  • pray for the Holy Spirit
  • pray for wisdom
  • pray for peace
  • pray for joy
  • pray for healing
  • pray for one another
and so on...
I hope that clarifies things...