Should professors start class with prayer??

Lee Ver Burg-Staff Writer

Some will say the answer to this question is obvious. In the words of one of my roommates, “Of course they should, this is Dordt College.”

Adam Vander Stoep, a junior here at Dordt and an aspiring lawyer, said this in response to my question: “Absolutely!” When asked for an explanation, he said the answer was as simple as that.

Anderson Clare, a senior at Dordt, had a lot to say about this topic, which has apparently been coming up in his CORE 399 class.

“This is a class on discipleship, and we spend time on how we should not be praying. That is puzzling to me,” he said. “Dordt is training people to go into the work force. They should help teach us how to pray too.”

Then there were other students who took the opposite viewpoint. Bryan Wallman, a sophomore accounting major, said, “I don’t think anyone should be required to do anything.”

Dustin Douma, a junior at Dordt, responded in much the same way: “I don’t think mandatory prayer before class is really going to change anything.”

Connor Leppink seems to be caught in the middle of the argument, agreeing with prayer before class, but not wanting to mandate it on professors. He said, “Within the Christian environment, I think it’s a good idea to pray before class.”

Despite this mixed report from the student body, the professors interviewed all unanimously came up with the same answer: no.

Carl Fictorie, a chemistry professor at Dordt asked, “If prayer is habitual, does that make professors feel like that’s their stamp on class?”

Fictorie elaborated on this comment. In his words, he said how habitual prayer before class can sometimes make professors feel content with just that, failing to incorporate Christian beliefs in more aspects of the classroom. But all in all, he said he has “no objection to praying in class.”

Without him knowing it, Professor Fessler agreed with Professor Fictorie, but with more conviction. He said, “That’s not what Dordt is all about. Prayer shouldn’t be what we look at to decide if we have a Christian class.” But again, Professor Fessler had no objection to it; he emphasized that it needed to be done for the right reasons.

Professor Van Vliet had similar ideas to convey. He said, “Christian education is more than praying in class.”


My Take On It

The student’s comments were not surprising. There is a vast array of students on this campus from all different backgrounds, so their varied opinion is expected. On top of that, it’s hard getting a thoughtful (bold?) answer from a student, especially when I tell them that they may be quoted in the paper.

That being said, it was surprising hearing from professors that they do not believe in mandatory prayer before/during class. Now of course, there may be some professors who are all over this idea (although I didn’t find any). But the overall consensus seems to lean away from mandatory prayer at beginning of class.

At first, this surprised me. Prayer is a big part of our reformed worldview, something many of us were taught at a very young age.  We do it before meals, in church (like 5 different times) and during personal devotions etc. So why shouldn’t we all do it before class?

But at the same time, the explanation I got from the professors made sense. Christianity is more than just prayer: it’s discipleship and servitude and many more things. Overemphasizing one element of Christianity relative to the others almost seems unnatural.

And on top of that, requiring anybody to do anything has its negative connotations. In theory, professors would begin performing their prayer before class strictly out of habit and nothing else.

Prayer is a great thing and I advocate it. It is a great idea for professors to pray before class, yet it is not a necessary one.

What do you think Dordt?


(Editors Note: the opinion(s) expressed in this article are strictly limited to those who said it, not representing the opinions of this publication in any way).

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